Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January Displays

Welcome to 2009! With the holiday season coming to an end, it's the perfect time to select some quality reading material and hunker down for the long winter ahead.

In the spirit of renewal that is prevalent every year at this time, we've got some how-to books for the most common New Year's resolutions: diet; exercise; finances; getting organized; stopping smoking, etc. Let the library's resources help make this the year you finally make the changes you've dreamed of.

We've also displaying some of the notable titles of 2008, with thanks to the Chicago Tribune's list of December 26th of this year. The list contains both fiction and non-fiction, so there should be something for everyone here.

Just for fun, we have some diet fiction books on display, as well as heart-warming novels to keep you cozy on these cold winter nights.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heartfelt and Heartwarming

This is a little book with a great big title and an even bigger heart. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is an unusual tale, told in the form of correspondence between numerous characters.

Juliet Ashton, who writes a human interest column in World War II London, is looking for a new project. The war is over, London is beginning to rebuild, and her column is played out. One day, out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of the isle of Guernsey, who spotted Juliet's name in a book. Juliet becomes intrigued by Dawsey's mention of the "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," which was formed in order to prevent the members (who were violating curfew) from being arrested by the German soldiers who had taken over the island. She asks Dawsey to have anyone interested from the society write to her as well, in the hopes of doing an article on them.

Well, write to her they did - enthralling Juliet with life on the island and tales of coexisting with the German soldiers. Eventually, Juliet decides to visit Guernsey, despite the fervent wishes of her current suitor, the rich and powerful Mark Reynolds, who is looking to solidify their relationship. Will Guernsey spell the end of Juliet and Mark's relationship? Will the island and its people be everything Juliet hoped it would be? Will Juliet's career plans pan out as she hoped? Read this lively little book to find out the answers - you won't be disappointed!

On a related note, one of our patrons reported that the audio version of this book is wonderfully done, so I'm going to listen to that next.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different....

As I've stated previously, the benefit of most holiday stories is that they are short, sweet, and bring out the true meaning of the holidays for most readers. Sometimes, however, readers are looking for something a little different, something to take them away from the constant swirl of the holidays, and for that I recommend...

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. This is one of those books I read annually around the holidays - it gives me another perspective on the holiday frenzy, and, best of all, makes me laugh. Out loud. Frequently.

This book contains six stories/essays from Sedaris, three of which were previously published. NPR listeners will no doubt be familiar with the most well-known piece from the book, "The Santaland Diaries," which relates his experiences working as an elf at the Macy's in New York City. This snarky tale shows parents at their worst, and includes my favorite quote from the entire book - "You're an elf and you're going to wear panties like an elf." Who ever imagined those words together in a sentence?

The remaining selections include an annual family Christmas letter gone horribly wrong, a ridiculous take on children's holiday programs, and and extreme version of keeping up with the Joneses. I have to say, Sedaris never fails to amuse and enlighten me, no matter how many times I read this book.

While I would not say that David Sedaris is an acquired taste - his books routinely top the best seller lists - I would agree that he definitely is not for everyone. If you are looking for holidays with a really big twist, give Holidays on Ice a try. He has also recently released an update, which contains additional stories from additional holidays, making it something to be read any type of year!

To see more about David Sedaris, go to: http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Silver Bells by Luanne Rice

There are a plethora of holiday fiction titles available from such wide-ranging authors as Debbie Macomber to John Grisham to Christopher Moore, so there is a good chance you can find something to your taste. The good news about most of these titles is they are short in length and easy to read - who has time to delve into something heavy this time of year? The bad news is they are predictably really popular around the holidays, we may not have exactly what you are looking for on the shelf!

This was my first attempt at a Luanne Rice book, but I know a couple of people who really like her books, so I started with Silver Bells. Catherine Tierney is a lonely widow in New York City. Christy Byrne is an overwhelmed widower from Nova Scotia who peddles his Christmas trees every December in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Since his wife's death a few years earlier, Christy brings his 2 children, Bridget and Danny to New York with him. The previous year, Danny and his father got into an argument, and Danny ran away. This year, Christy is back and is determined to find Danny to bring him back to the farm. While Christy and Catherine discover a growing attraction for one another, Catherine struggles with letting Christy know that Danny is doing okay, since she and her friend Lizzie have been helping him out for the last year. Will Christy get his wish to have his family back together? Will Danny be able to keep making it as a homeless teenager? Will the ghost of Catherine's husband free her from her sadness, enabling her to find love again? I think we all probably know the answer to these questions, seeing that it is a holiday book, and holidays are the time for miracles.

The book itself is not long (a plus,) it features religion quite prominently, and ends with an appropriately heart-warming conclusion. If you like sweet stories and do not mind religious overtones, give this one a try to put you in the holiday spirit.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Books into Movies

Several highly-anticipated films are due out this month which are based on works of literature - here's a sampling:

"Tales of Despereaux," an animated "modern day fairy tale" is based on the book by the same name by Kate DiCamillo. Due out December 19th

Yes Man by Danny Wallace is the inspiration behind the movie of the same name starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel. This one is also opening on December 19th.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in this tale based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald in which a man ages backwards. Due out December 25th.

Anyone who enjoys dogs should also enjoy the highly anticipated movie "Marley and Me" based on the popular book by John Grogan. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston star in this film, due out on Christmas Day.

"The Spirit," based on the "Spirit" graphic novel series by Will Eisner will also open on Christmas Day - this movie features an all-star cast, including Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes. Scheduled to open on December 25th.

Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are reunited in "Revolutionary Road," which is based on the book by Richard Yeats. This movie opens in theaters on December 26th.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

December Displays

Well, the holidays are upon us, which of course means it's time for the always-popular Holiday Fiction display at the library. The great thing about most of these books is they are short and sweet, perfect for savoring during what little downtime most of us have this time of year.

In addition to the fiction, we will also have the how-to holiday books and cookie baking books on display for easy perusal.

Make this holiday the best ever with the resources at our library!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Testimony by Anita Shreve

While I used to read Anita Shreve religiously, I have been disappointed in her last couple of titles. On a whim, I picked up her latest, Testimony, and I am so glad I did.

Set at a prestigious private high school in an idyllic Vermont town, the reader is instantly immersed in the story, as it begins with Mike, the headmaster of the school viewing a scandalous videotape - one that features 3 of the school's basketball stars in compromising positions with a 14 year old girl. Of the three boys, J.Dot, Rob and Silas, Mike is most affected at Silas's involvement. Silas is a well-behaved and respectful student who Mike helped get into the school, so this seems completely out of character. The remainder of the book deals with the circumstances leading up to the events captured on tape as well as the repercussions for everyone even remotely involved.

Told through multiple point of views, including the actual participants of the events, their parents, the local reporter who broke the story, and the headmaster himself, this is a sensitively told story, and although contributions come from several different voices, I never found it confusing or difficult to follow. It ends heartbreakingly, as all the circumstances surrounding the events come to light.

The beginning of the book was difficult to read - it's a little graphic sexually, but once I made it through that I couldn't put this book down. The way the story unwinds throughout the course of the book kind of reminded me of Shreve's The Last Time We Met, which I also highly recommend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Book Award Winners Announced

The National Book Award winners for 2008 are:

Young Adult Literature:
Judy Blundell What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)

Mark Doty Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)

Peter Matthiessen Shadow Country (Modern Library)

Annette Gordon-Reed The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton & Company)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Torie O'Shea Mysteries

The latest entry in the Torie O'Shea mystery series by Rett Macpherson, is the book Blood Ballad. This is the 11th book in the series, so I'll try not to include any spoilers in the review - this is a series you want to try and read in order!

Torie O'Shea is a genealogist and local historian in a small Missouri tourist town who seems to find herself in trouble more often than not. What I like about her the most is that she is a real woman - struggling with her weight, dealing with family issues, and her life in small-town America. In this particular book, Torie somehow finds herself spending the night in the woods with one of her least favorite people, as she reluctantly participates in New Kassel's first Birding Olympics. As is bound to happen, a dead body ends up bringing Tori's night to an end, but is only the beginning of a new mystery involving a recording sent to her from the deceased person, her ancestors and a historical unsolved disappearance.

One of the highlights of these books for me is the humorous relationship between Torie and her stepfather, Colin. While they clash over just about everything, and neither one is bashful in their exasperation with the other, Colin is still one of the first people Tori turns to when she's in trouble. Which is a lot.

Overall, the Torie O'Shea mysteries are great cozy mystery reading - there is little if any graphic violence, the characters are quirky and entertaining, and the books always end with a satisfying conclusion. There are a few in the series that I felt were not up to MacPherson's usual quality, but on the whole, this is an enjoyable and very readable series. I would definitely recommend reading the books in the order they were written so changes in Torie's family, friends and neighbors can be followed coherently.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November Displays

Wow, this month really snuck up on me! We've got all new displays up at the library for your reading pleasure...

In honor of American Indian Heritage Month, we're featuring a book display on native culture and history. There are a some especially moving titles included in this group, including Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Native American Testimony and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen.

Another display that is really moving is our "Non-fiction Books that Read like Fiction." The titles on this display range from biographies to true crime to travelogues, and they all look like fascinating reading.

November is also Diabetes Awareness Month, so we are featuring our resources on diabetes as well as numerous cookbooks aimed at diabetic appetites. Rounding out the displays is the always-popular-this-time-of-year Soup Cookbook display. Don't forget our Chili Cook-Off on November 22nd - bring in your own special concoction, or just show up for the tasting - 12:00 - 1:00 in Meeting Rooms A&B.

Monday, October 20, 2008

2008 National Book Awards

The finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards were announced last week in Chicago. The finalists are:


The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

Home by Marilynne Robinson

The End by Salvatore Scibona


This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer

Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives by Jim Sheeler

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order by Joan Wickersham


Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart

Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems by Mark Doty

Creatures of a Day by Reginald Gibbons

Without Saying by Richard Howard

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

Young Adult Literature:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Winners will be announced on November 19th. Check out the library's National Book Award finalist and winner display from 2000 - 2007 in the Adult Services Department on the second floor. There are some great titles to choose from!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Books into Movies - October

Expect to see more great literature brought to life this fall - here's a sampling of films that will be released in October which are based on books:

"How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" starring Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. Based on the memoir of the same title by Toby Young.

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" starring Michael Cera (of "Juno" fame) and Kat Dennings. Based on the book of the same title by Rachel Cohn.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe team up in "Body of Lies," based on the novel by David Ignatius.

Children's book City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is now a major motion picture with some big names, such as Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Saoirse Ronan (of "Atonement" fame) and Martin Landau.

Speaking of big names, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Alicia Keys come together for the much-anticipated "Secret Life of Bees" based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Looking for a creepy read for Halloween? Heart-Shaped Box should fit the bill nicely. Jude Coyne is an aging rock and roll star with a taste for the morbid - so when he is tipped off about a "ghost" that inhabits a recently deceased man's suit for sale on an internet auction site, he can't resist. The suit arrives - in a black, heart-shaped box - a few days later. Jude, his live-in girlfriend, Georgia, and his personal assistant, Danny have no idea what is in store for them.

The ghost wastes no time making himself known to the inhabitants of the house, not only making personal appearances, but also infiltrating the dreams of the occupants of the house, as well as transmitting his voice over the radio and TV. Jude, a wee bit disturbed by all of this undead activity in his home, discovers that the dead man just happens to be the stepfather of his previous girlfriend, who committed suicide when their relationship ended. Presumably, the ghost has come back with the intention of enacting revenge on Jude - by goading Jude into killing not only himself, but also anyone who tries to help him.

As Jude and Georgia attempt to outlast the ghost, Jude is also trying to outrun his dying father, a cold and abusive man, who is on his deathbed in rural Louisiana, and who he has not seen in over 30 years. As Jude and Georgia flee his farm in an effort to solve their ghostly predicament, they grow closer to figuring out a way to not only outsmart their ghost, but also determine what really happened to Jude's former flame. Through this all, Jude learns to grow up and see what is really important in his life...but is it too late?

I really enjoyed this book, I thought the ending was surprisingly upbeat considering the subject matter. It is interesting to note that the author, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. He seems to have the same gift for story telling that his father does.

Stop by and check out some of our other Horror titles on display for Halloween. We've got something for everyone!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

The Wednesday Sisters is a light and entertaining read about friendship and loyalty. The "sisters" (who are not really sisters,) are comprised of 5 women who first meet in a neighborhood park in Palo Alto, California during the late 1960's. Each of the women is assigned a role early on by the narrator, Frankie, and none of them stray far from these early perceptions. Frankie is a quiet Midwesterner, Linda is brash and outspoken, Kath is a Southern belle, Ally is mousy and secretive, and Brett is brilliant and always wears white gloves. All are married and have children, or are trying to have children.

The group starts out meeting regularly on Wednesday mornings, discussing their families, married life, as well as slowly discovering who they really are. Eventually they start a writing group, with a shove from Linda (the pushy one, of course.) Though it starts out slowly, the women learn to be honest rather than polite when critiquing one another's work, and the characters grow into themselves through this process, learning to balance their home lives with their writing, while gaining a level of success along the way. The writing also gives the friends some insight into one another's lives, helping them understand each person's unique point of view.

As the novel progresses, the women each come into their own while sticking together through all that life throws at them, including marital strife, illness, infertility, and the social unrest that is prevalent during this period in history. The ending I found a bit unlikely, as if the author was trying to wrap everything up with an incredible, tie-up-all-lose-ends-and-make-everything-okay ending, which feels forced in this case. Book clubs looking for something a little less heavy might want to look into this title - I read it for a club, and I am looking forward to a lively discussion!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

In her latest ambitious novel, Curtis Sittenfeld tackles the life of a fictional first lady. Although not acknowledged anywhere in the book, the heroine of Sittenfeld's book is clearly based on Laura Bush. Combining actual events from Mrs. Bush's life with fictional characters and happenings, she draws a portrait of a quiet yet strong woman.

Alice Lindgren is a reserved, bookish young lady, the only child of equally reserved parents who grows up in a small Wisconsin town. Her liberal-minded and book-loving grandmother also resides with them, and is a very big influence on Alice during her formative years and beyond. Alice grows up sheltered and loved, but is involved in a tragic accident during her senior year of high school that thrusts her into the adult world and haunts her throughout her life. Despite the tragedy, Alice is able to continue on with her life, obtaining her master's degree and becoming a school librarian. She's also involved in a couple dating relationships, but nothing with any staying power, until she meets Charlie Blackwell at a party. Charlie is handsome, charming, fun-loving and a bit on the wild side, as well as a member of one of Wisconsin's most powerful and rich families. They enter a whirlwind relationship, becoming engaged after just 6 weeks of dating. When Alice meets her future in-laws at the family's summer compound in Door County, she realizes just how different she and Charlie are, but they persevere on, marrying a short time later. Alice stands by her man as he undergoes an unsuccessful run for the Wisconsin State Congress.

The novel then follows Alice and Charlie through the years - having a child, establishing themselves in a wealthy Milwaukee suburb, and living the good life. All the while, feeling guilty about her good fortune, Alice is secretly sending donations to worthy charities, something that will ironically benefit her husband down the line. Eventually, after a few trials in their marriage, Charlie settles down and gives politics another try. Alice reluctantly finds herself the First Lady of Wisconsin, then the First Lady of the nation.

The book is very well-written and engaging most of the way through. I did get bogged down in the final section, although I am not sure why, and it seemed as if it took me forever to finish the book. It is a fascinating look at how a woman manages to hang on to herself and her views while married to a man whose very public policies and practices do not line up with her own values. While this is a work of fiction, it did pique my interest in our current First Lady, and I now have more knowledge and respect for Laura Bush as an individual as a result.

Monday, September 22, 2008

October Displays

Coming Next Month:

With October just around the corner, we're getting ready for fall with our October Book Displays, which will include books on celebrating Halloween, and the always-popular Horror Fiction! Come in and see what great titles the library has to offer! Prepare to be spooked....

We'll also be highlighting our books on Domestic Violence, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, as well as National Book Award winners and nominees. With the presidential election growing ever closer, we'll have information on the election available as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Books into Movies

Several movies that are being released this month originated as books - here's a list, including the title the movie was based upon:

The Duchess, based on the book Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman, stars Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is based on the book of the same name by Yiyun Li.

Blindness is based on the book of the same name by Jose Saramago, and stars Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk is now a major motion picture (of the same name) starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston.

Spike Lee's new film, Miracle at St. Anna is based on the novel of the same title by James McBride.

Finally, Nicholas Sparks' book Nights in Rodanthe hits the big screen with Diane Lane and Richard Gere.

Is the book better than the movie? Check them out for yourself and see what you think!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Banned Books Week

In recognition of Banned Books Week: Celebrating Our Freedom to Read (Sept. 27-Oct. 4), here is some background information on this unusual celebration:

- Officially recognized since 1982, Banned Books Week is a reminder not to take our freedoms for granted - we are all free to read what we choose.

- Books are challenged for a variety of reasons, but generally the person making the challenge is trying to protect others from "difficult ideas or information."

- Books on display in the library include titles that have been challenged over the past several years for a variety of reasons. Very few of them have actually been banned, thanks to the vigilance of many librarians!

- Curious about what books have been targeted? Check out the display at the library - some of the titles will surprise you!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

In 2000, bestselling author Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy, where he planned on writing a thriller set in historic Florence. Shortly after his arrival, he met journalist Mario Spezi, a meeting that would change both of their lives. Spezi clued Preston in to some horrific crimes that had taken place in the area, crimes that had never truly been solved and that Spezi had been writing about for 20 years.

The first half of the book relates the actual crimes committed, and is a terrifying look at a calculating and vicious crime spree in which amorous couples, parked in the hills surrounding Florence are targeted. The men were typically killed first and instantly, while the women were killed last, and their bodies all mutilated in a similar fashion after their death. While the crimes primarily took place during the 80’s the true killer had never been apprehended. Preston also relates the various avenues taken by law enforcement, including a few unlucky characters who were actually arrested and tried for their involvement in the crimes.

The second half of the book is where Douglas Preston comes into the story – his friendship with Spezi is fueled by both of their interest in the Monster of Florence case, and as they sift through the files that Spezi has kept on the case, they reach their own conclusion regarding the identity of the Monster. Unfortunately, the local law enforcement does not appreciate their involvement, especially since their conclusions are not syncing with the official investigation. Eventually, in a bizarre twist, both Preston and Spezi are targeted by the authorities and endure seemingly ridiculous accusations that cast a very unflattering light on the justice system of Florence.

Although I am not a big reader of true crime, I found this particular book to be gripping – I could not put it down! Preston is a well-known writer of fiction and he applies his considerable talent to the tale at hand. The book moves along at a quick pace, although with all of the suspects, victims, witnesses and law enforcement in this book, I had to keep referring back to the handy “Cast of Secondary Characters” that Preston so thoughtfully provides in the beginning of the book. This is a non-fiction book that reads as fiction with a story so fantastic it lends credence to the old saying, “truth is stranger than fiction.”