Monday, December 21, 2009

Attn: Jodi Picoult Fans!

An excerpt from Jodi Picoult's (as far as I know, still untitled) 18th book due out in 2011, is available to read on her website. Her next book, House Rules, is due to be released on March 2.

Thanks to Lauren for the link.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn't your typical murder mystery, because in this book the murder victim is Wellington. Wellington is a poodle, a poodle belonging to Mrs. Shears. Mrs. Shears is the neighbor of the narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher isn't your typical protagonist either. Christopher is autistic and takes everything literally. He doesn't understand emotions, sarcasm, or even jokes, and that is why there are no jokes in this book.

When Christopher is accused of killing Wellington, he takes it upon himself to investigate in order to find the real killer. Prompted by his teacher, Siobhan, he writes down what he learns in the form of a murder-mystery novel. Along the way, Christopher's investigation leads him to some unexpected information about his own family and the end of his parents' marriage.

Christopher is also a mathematical genius, and he is working on passing his A-levels in mathematics (the British version of American high school Advanced Placement tests). Christopher often explains the way he thinks about things by describing math puzzles, so there are a lot of diagrams and drawings in the book. While I listened to the audio version and liked it very much, I do feel like I missed out by not reading the book.

Mark Haddon chooses a curious narrator for his curious book. He explores human emotion through a character who cannot experience emotion himself. As we follow along with Christopher we learn about the daily struggles he faces that make his investigation even more difficult. For example, seeing 5 red cars in a row makes it a Super Good Day, but 4 yellow cars in a row makes it a Black Day.

Despite Christopher's assertion that there are no jokes, the book is both funny and illuminating. At no point does the reader feel as though they are laughing at Christopher, but at themselves. Christopher's dry observations about things he doesn't understand, shows the reader how very silly we are sometimes. Haddon himself worked with autistic children as a young man and is able to give the reader a glimpse into what like is like for teens like Christopher, handling the subject with grace.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is also a great book for Young Adults, having made the Top Ten List of Best Books for Young Adults in 2004 and winning an Alex Award (adult books with appeal for teens) the same year. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, is a book written for young adults in which Marcelo, a high-functioning, autistic, 17-year-old, is pushed out of his comfort zone and into the mailroom of his father's law firm.

If you'd like a rather non-traditional memoir, try Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg, a high-functioning, autistic young man who tells the story of his life as episodes in the format of the Internet Movie Database.

For a parent's perspective, try Louder than Words by Jenny McCarthy or Making Peace with Autism by Susan Senator.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stitches by David Small

Stitches is the haunting, graphic memoir of the award-winning children’s illustrator, David Small. As a child, Small's health problems were treated with a series of x-rays, administered by his father. The resulting cancer went long untreated and caused the loss of one of his vocal chords. Since the surgery, he has never been able to speak in more than a whisper. In a story that could only be told graphically, Small shows how his own enforced silence was a reflection of the silence in his own family. The spare text and monochromatic illustrations reinforce the lack of dialogue.

If you have always wanted to try a graphic novel, Stitches isn't a bad place to start. It has been highly-praised by a number of reviewers and can be read in less than an hour. As a word of caution, the book does contain some nudity, language, and acts of violence. Elements such as these tend to be harder for some readers to "skip over" as you could in a novel.


Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. Another great graphic memoir which depicts Satrapi's life in Iran, during and after the Islamic Revolution. It was adapted to film in 2007.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The children of Rex and Rose Mary Walls learned from a young age to take care of themselves, spurred on by their nomadic and frequently neglectful parents.

The Art of Mending
by Elizabeth Berg. Laura Bartone must reconcile her sister's accusations of abuse by her mother, with her own happy childhood.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

January Book Clubs at the Library

The Adult Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room. Members will discuss Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell on January 13, 2010. A 38-year-old Ohio spinster school teacher, along with her little dog, travels to Egypt where she meets T. E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill, and falls in love with a German spy.

The Mystery Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B. On January 20, 2010, members will discuss Envy the Night by Michael Koryta. In Koryta's latest thriller, a young man runs into serious trouble while going after the mobster he believes is responsible for his father's death.

New members are always welcome. Stop by to pick up your copy at the Adult Services Reference Desk on the second floor.

There is still time to read the December selections. The Adult Book Club is reading The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, and the Mystery Book Club is reading Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

I have read several of Richard Paul Evan's books before and knew before I turned one page of this book I would not be disappointed. I absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I read the book in about four hours. I had to know what would happen next, it was that good.

The story is about a man named James Kier. James is a successful, middle aged business man. Putting all his time and effort into his business has made him what he is today. He has worked hard and to say the least, his business is his life and his main focus. His wife and son have been deserted. His wife is coping with cancer treatments, and his son will not speak to him. James is seeking a divorce during a time his family needs him the most. However, James is a greedy, self-absorbed human being who only wants more, more control, more power, more money and he doesn't care who he hurts or steps on to get what he wants and what he feels he deserves.

His life takes a drastic turn one morning when he reads his own obituary in the newspaper. He turns to the internet to see what comments his friends and acquaintances have written about him. Everyone wants to leave a legacy right? What he reads disturbs him. People hate him, they write how he has cheated and lied to them, stolen their homes, forced them into bankruptcy, and much more.

He meets the family of the "other" James Kier. This James leaves behind a family who loved him dearly. He didn't have much money, in fact he worked as a bus driver. He loved his family, friends, neighbors, and community. Many, many friends and neighbors come to pay their respect and to honor a man who really made the world a better place. James attended the wake saw with his own eyes how much this man was loved.
James makes a decision to right some of the wrongs he has done to people. This journey is difficult for James. He initially expects people to accept his apologies and his method of righting the wrong done to them. However, this is not always the case. At the same time James tries to make amends to his wife and son.
Forgiveness can take some time. It is not always easy for people to forgive someone who has devastated their life, their home or their family. James becomes a better person for seeing how his decisions affected all the people around him. The decisions he makes now are all for the better-to bring people together and benefit others not himself.
Richard Paul Evans has written yet another great story of compassion, love, and most of all forgiveness. Give it a try!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Since a serial killer stopped terrorizing local citizens in the 1990's, nothing much happens in the rural burg of Painters Mill, Ohio, which is just how Chief Kate Burkholder likes it. After years of experience in the more urban setting of Columbus, Ohio, she jumped at the chance to become the police chief of her hometown. Her past as a member of the local Amish community has given her a unique perspective and ability to act as a go-between between the private Amish community and the "English."

When one of her officers responds to a "loose cattle" call and instead finds the nude body of a young woman in the snow, Kate's peaceful existence comes to an abrupt halt. Not only is the murder reminiscent of the serial killings that took place in the '90's, but it brings Kate's history crashing back to her, including a secret that she, her brother and sister have kept all these years. When the town calls in outside help, Kate is resistant, fearing her secret will be exposed after 16 years, but as bodies continue to turn up, she must face her fear in order to solve the gruesome crimes.

John Tomasetti has been to hell, and does not seem to want to leave. Since losing his partner and family a few years earlier, his life has continued in a downward spiral, thanks to his steady diet of booze and painkillers. When he is assigned to work on the Painters Mill murders, he knows it is his last chance. Can Kate overcome her fear and mistrust to work with Tomasetti?

This is the first book in a promising new series featuring Chief Kate Burkholder, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of John Tomasetti as well. Despite the Amish connection, this is definitely NOT a cozy mystery - the grisly details, salty language and sexual situations and references are not for the faint of heart. Kate is a great heroine - strong yet vulnerable, principled yet hesitant, and damaged yet hopeful. I look forward to seeing more from this series. Fans of this book may also like Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series or Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Book by the Author of The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, explores the world of gothic literature in her latest novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Although this story takes quite a turn from her previous work, it still requires some suspension of belief to make it through the plot.

Elspeth is dying, in London, leaving her younger lover, Robert behind to mourn. Rather than leaving her worldly possessions to him, she leaves her flat and its contents to her twin nieces, whom she has never met. Julia and Valentina have grown up with their parents, Edie and Jack, in Lake Forest, Illinois. Edie and Elspeth were twins as well, but estranged.

The twins move into Elspeth's flat, and begin exploring London, meeting their neighbors in the building, Martin, who has severe OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's former lover. Before long, they also realize that Elspeth herself is occupying the flat as well, and they and Robert begin communicating with her. As Elspeth grows in strength, she discovers she can remove souls from living creatures when, in trying to pet the twins' kitten, she accidentally hooks its soul and removes it from its body. She is able to put it back in, with Valentina's help, and the kitten seems unscarred from the experience. This gives Valentina an idea to finally escape the over-bearing Julia once and for all. But will Elspeth and Robert agree to her plan?

This book has so many things I like in a story - ghosts, cemeteries, romance, family secrets, London. Niffenegger's writing style is lovely and the story slowly unwraps. I have a difficult time believing Valentina was willing to go as far as she did in order to escape her twin; perhaps that is part of what makes this story so ultimately horrific. The ending is a bleak one, devoid of much hope for the future for the parties involved. In short, this is a beautifully written gothic horror novel for our times.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Push by Sapphire

Set for limited release in the U.S. in November, 2009, under the title "Precious" (with none other than Oprah and Tyler Perry behind it,) Push is the story of a young woman who lifts herself out of dire circumstances to go from feeling like "nuffin'" to loving herself and her accomplishments.

Claireece Precious Jones, who goes by "Precious" has not had an easy life. Poor, illiterate and obese, she gave birth to her first child at the age of 12 (after being consistently raped by her father since a very young child) and is pregnant with her second (also by her daddy) at the age of 16. Living with her mother who also verbally, physically and sexually abuses her daughter, Precious is a child who has fallen through the cracks of society.

When her junior high principal points her in the direction of an alternative school, (after suspending her over her pregnancy,) Precious begins to turn things around. Her teacher at the school, Blue Rain, challenges and nurtures Precious to overcome her past, deal with the present and look toward the future. Through her interactions with the other students and Blue, Precious learns to love herself and take care of herself and her baby.

Although this is a little book, it is anything but light reading. Written from Precious's perspective, this is a difficult book to read, due primarily to the graphic subject matter. Precious is an amazing character - just when it seems as if everything is going right for her, she receives news that would shatter most people. This is a unique work of urban fiction with an unforgettable heroine - I am looking forward to the movie, which won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

The Robinas, a Detroit couple in their eighties have been married for nearly 60 years. Ella has terminal cancer and John has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. Even though their doctors and middle-aged children are against Ella's decision to refuse medical treatment, she decides that she and John should have one last hoorah. They get into their old RV and head west to Disneyland taking historic Route 66. Their story is sad, funny, romantic, and deeply moving.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain

Are you looking for a sick and twisted tale of a serial killings this Halloween? Chelsea Cain's Heart Sick might be just what you are looking for. This book is the first of the Archie and Gretchen thrillers series (followed by Sweetheart and Evil at Heart.)

Two years after a serial killer that terrified the Pacific Northwest turned herself in, another one is loose on the streets of Portland, Oregon. Archie Sheridan, the head of the task force that helped capture Gretchen Lowell (he was her final victim and the only one that survived,) has been lured off of his medical leave to head up a task force to capture "the After School Strangler." Tagging along after him is local reporter Susan Ward, who is doing a profile on Archie. Susan is surprised to learn that two of the suspects in the current murders are former high school teachers of hers.

Although Archie survived his ordeal with Gretchen he is an extremely scarred individual, both physically and emotionally. He cannot seem to escape the grip that Gretchen has over him, continuing to visit her in prison every Sunday, trips that led to the demise of his marriage. He also has a vigorous pill-popping habit in an effort to stay on top of the pain. He somehow manages to hang on to his tenuous grasp of reality and be an effective leader.

Both Archie and Susan are extremely vulnerable human beings - the details of Archie's torture at the hands of Gretchen are gruesome, and as the book progresses, the readers learn more about Susan's troubled adolescence. Gretchen, the imprisoned serial killer is terrifyingly cold and plays both Susan and Archie to satisfy her own sick needs. The puzzling relationship between Gretchen and Archie is intriguing to say the least - I'm diving right into the next book of the series, Sweetheart, to see what happens next!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Displays

New Lenox Public Library has some great displays going this month for your reading pleasure:

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage by checking out our Hispanic Authors book display. We have some wonderful books by such talented authors as Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, and Mario Llosa Vargas. There is definitely something for just about everyone in this display.

With Halloween just around the corner, we've put together some books on Halloween decorating and entertaining, as well as those ever-popular ghost stories, vampire lore and Halloween history. Be ready for the holiday with our help!

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month - we have books on the disease itself, but also personal accounts of how some women have dealt with the disease personally.

Last, but not least, we've got a spooky selection of Horror Fiction to get your blood curdling and keep you up at night! Get in the Halloween spirit with one of our hair-raising tales. Don't forget to grab a scary movie on your way out also! DVD and VHS feature films are a great deal at $2 for an entire week's checkout!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A "Rediscovered Classic"

In 2005, Jane Smiley published a book titled Thirteen Ways to Look at the Novel, in which she mentions the mostly-forgotten novel The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. First published in 1962, this novel garnered lots of fans and critical acclaim at the time, then faded into obscurity. Now rediscovered and even mentioned on Oprah for goodness' sake, the book has seen a resurgence in popularity, leading to a papberback reprint this year.

The majority of the story takes place on the rural Missouri farm of the Soames family - Matthew, Callie and their four daughters. The story begins with an overview of the elderly couple, who are joined on the farm for a couple of weeks every summer by their daughters. Each character lends their point of view to a portion of the book, providing honest and straightforward insight into their lives and the lives of those around them. What at first appears to be an old-fashioned traditional family has a history at which few readers would guess.

While I found this book to be a lovely read, I hesitate to compare it to some other classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Invisible Man, as Smiley does. In this family drama, Carleton tackles some hot-button issues, particularly for the early '60's, but ideals which are still relevant today, such as religion, sexuality, and women's roles. The Soames family is every family, and Carleton does a marvelous job of reaching beyond the superficial into the very depth of this family - the obstacles, challenges, temptations and choices - that make them (and us) who we are.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

October is National Reading Group Month

Are you a member of a book club? Would you like to be? The library hosts 3 separate book clubs here in our meeting rooms: a Fiction Book Club, which meets the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m.; the Mystery Book Club, which meets the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m.; and, the Busy Mom's Book Club, which meets the first Monday of the month, every other month during the school year, resuming Monday, October 5th at 10:30 a.m.

All books are available at the Adult Reference Desk on the second floor. If you are interested in starting your or contributing to your own book club, here are some helpful online resources:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

This little book offers a quirky attempt at romance between two very unlikely people. Benny is a thirty-something dairy farmer, who, following the death of his mother, realizes what a lonely life he leads on the farm. Desiree, (or "Shrimp" as Benny calls her) is also in her thirties, a cultured and educated librarian, and recently widowed. They first meet at the cemetery - Benny is there tending his parents' garish grave, while Desiree routinely spends her lunch hour at her husband's grave - where both feel intense dislike for the other.

Once they recover from their initial dislike, both realize their physical attraction is mutual and they fall into a passionate affair. Both, however are set in their ways, and neither seems to be willing to give up their compartmentalized little lives in order to make their relationship work. While their physical need for each other grows, their values and interests work to drive them apart. Will the two of them ever be able to let go of their differences and build a life together?

Benny and Shrimp is the debut novel of author Mazetti and was first published in Sweden, where it was a bestseller. The writing is sparse yet lively, written from both of the main characters perspectives. While the story is set in Sweden and gives some lovely details of both rural and urban Swedish life, it could easily describe dating in any of the western cultures. It is a quick read, and the unorthodox ending guarantees the reader will be thinking about Benny and Shrimp long after finishing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Family secrets lie just beneath the surface in this suspenseful debut novel, set in contemporary small town Iowa. 7 year-old best friends Calli and Petra are closer than most girls that age - Calli, a selective mute since the age of 4, relies on Petra to be her voice, while Petra seems to instinctively know what Calli needs at any given time. When both girls disappear from their homes one hot summer morning, no one anticipates how the day will end.

When Deputy Sheriff Louis finds out about the missing girls, he immediately sets out on the case. While his history with Calli's mother, Toni, complicates his involvement, he has no intention of backing off the case. Toni, along with Petra's parents, anxiously await news as Calli's brother and other volunteers search for the girls in the woods. Griff, Calli's father is supposed to be away on a fishing trip; however he did not get away that morning as planned. Could he be responsible for taking the girls? What other secrets will be uncovered throughout the course of the search?

While there are some plot holes in this story, overall it is a mesmerizing read. Told from multiple viewpoints, including silent Calli's, the short chapters and increasing tension keep the pages turning. Fans of Jodi Picoult or Anita Shreve will appreciate this novel, as well as anyone who is looking for a quick and engrossing family drama.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz was already pre-disposed to liking dogs . He’d even used them as characters in his books. At last he and his wife decided they were ready to own a dog, or rather be owned by this amazing, intelligent and joyous Golden Retriever named Trixie. Though retired from service with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) due to an injury, Trixie was certainly not retired from life. She taught Dean and his wife Gerda about love and joy, loss, life’s mysteries, and how to find once again that sense of wonder in life. She was very special. Others told the Koontzes so, though that was unnecessary because they knew from the start that this 60 pound soul was unique. She helped them to see what was really important in life. And her joyous exuberance reached to others who came in contact with her.

While Koontz is known for his fiction, this book reads every bit as richly as his other titles and yet in his carefully chosen words there is a special feel of extraordinary kinship and connection with Trixie that reflected the obviously touching way she affected him and the close relationship they shared. Koontz and his wife almost missed out on Trixie but instead were blessed with treasured years with her.

Though a bittersweet book because of her too-early passing, this book is blissfully uplifting in seeing who Trixie was and how she lived her life - joyously and with abandon. Though she is sadly gone, she is really not gone, living on in the books she “penned” and in her continued connection with CCI; and most importantly she will always remain with the Koontzes and readers for the lessons she taught about life that Koontz generously shared with us, his readers. Trixie was a very special dog. Her life was indeed a big, little life. We can all learn from Trixie.

Review by Paula P. Newbury, Plainfield Public Library.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Adult Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room. Members will discuss Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson on October 14, 2009. Set in Norway, Trond Sander moves to the country to enjoy a peaceful life. A chance encounter with a neighbor brings back painful memories of his youth.

The Mystery Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B. On October 21, 2009, members will discuss Lone Creek by Neil McMahon. Set in Montana, Hugh Davoren, a construction worker, lands in jail for a night after stumbling across two dead horses.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's here....

For all of you Dan Brown fans, his new book, The Lost Symbol, hits the shelves today. It's hard to believe it's been 6 years since The Da Vinci Code blazed a trail up the best seller lists, eventually becoming the bestselling hardcover book of all time!
Robert Langdon is back at it once again, this time traipsing about Washington D.C. in an effort to solve yet another non-stop death-defying mystery...will this one live up to the hype? Reviews so far are positive, but why not decide for yourself? We have numerous copies in different formats - all are checked out, but we will be happy to add you to the holds list!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

This non-fiction selection focuses on 11 women from the town of Ames, Iowa, who have maintained their friendship since at least high school. Now in their late forties, the women have spread all over the country, and their lives have all taken different directions, yet they remain bonded as a group.

Zaslow, who co-wrote The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch and also pens the Moving On column for the Wall Street Journal, selected this group of women and their friendship based on their, well, averageness. Representing the last wave of the baby boomers, growing up in the Midwest, Zaslow felt these women's experiences would connect with a large number of people.

While the book features this group of women, including more intimate portraits of 4 of them, it also includes some data and information on the very nature of friendships, particularly comparing women's friendships with men's friendships, and the tendency for women's relationships to stand the test of time. He also includes some studies on the benefits of maintaining friendships over long periods of time.

I have to say I did not really love this book. I did not really connect with any of the women, (although some of them seem like perfectly lovely people) and I think most of us already know that women stay more connected in their friendships than men. There were some interesting, poignant and humorous anecdotes, observations and dynamics from the group, but the whole work just did not resonate. This could be an interesting choice for book clubs, however. There is a reader's guide and other information at:

Time to read some fiction!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson, best known as an advice columnist and contributor to NPR, has written a lovely little book detailing her life as a member of a female-dominated extended family - the "queens" of her hometown, tiny Freeville, New York.

A unique feature of her family is that the few men in it tend to pack up and leave town, which was the case with both Amy's father and her husband (although her husband did maintain a relationship with their daughter, Emily.) For the most part, women in her family have had to fend for themselves. The bits and pieces that Dickinson shares regarding her female relatives are few and far between, I would have loved to hear more about them.

The book is basically snippets of a life - from her childhood to marriage to motherhood, to welcoming love into her life after a long dry spell. Dickinson does not delve too deeply, yet manages to share some deeply personal moments. I really enjoyed this book - Dickinson's voice is funny and familiar, as well as warm and inviting. Again, I would have really enjoyed hearing more about her amazing mother and other female relatives, perhaps there will be another book in Ms. Dickinson's future! For further information on "Mighty Queens," go to:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax

This is a very interesting and ambitious concept for a book of fiction. Kendall Aims is a published author who does reasonably well; however, her agent has just informed her that she is going to be dropped from her publisher, but not before having to complete one last book to fulfill her contract. When she also loses out on a big award that she was counting on to revive her career, her downward spiral really takes off. Upon returning home, she also learns that her husband has left her for a younger, blonder woman. Unable to cope with the reality of her life, she retreats to her cabin in the mountains to hide out.

Fortunately for her, her 3 friends, also writers, will not let her go through this alone. Mallory, a best-selling fiction author whose marriage is also faltering comes to stay with Kendall and get her back on track. She persuades the others, Faye, an inspirational author married to a well-known pastor, and Tanya, a single mother who works two jobs and writes romances on the side, to come out for a weekend. When they witness how much help Kendall really needs, Tanya suggests that they all write the book together but do their part anonymously, in order for Kendall to meet her deadline.

The book is a smash - trouble is, the women based their characters on themselves, including some deep, dark secrets never guessing that they - and their secrets - might someday be revealed. It isn't long before family, agents and others decifer what is going on. Can the friendship survive the success of their book as well as the knowledge that the friends did not know each other so well after all?

This was an enjoyable read of friendship, trust and renewal. Each of the four main characters maintain their own separate voice and identity and the storyline definitely keeps the pages turning. Despite the fact there are really four separate story lines going on, the book does not get confusing at all. I have to say that one of the factors that make this a tad unbelievable is the fact that the four friends so closely resemble the characters they create, it seems fairly obvious that someone would figure out the true identity and put two and two together...but that might be taking this book a little too seriously. Overall, it's an interesting perspective into a writer's life and a good choice for a quiet weekend or getaway read.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quick Nonfiction Read

You may or may not have heard of "Improv Everywhere," a group whose mission it is to "cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places," but you may have heard of some their better-known pranks. The founder, Charlie Todd, and one of his "agents," Alex Scordelis have compiled some of their favorite "missions" in their book, Causing a Scene.

Each of the thirteen chapters in this book detail one of Improv Everywhere's endeavors since their formation in 2002. Some have grown to be quite large scale, others are smaller, but all require quite a bit of planning and imagination. In fact, the amount of actual calculations that go into many of the pranks is quite impressive. Each description includes whether the mission had the desired effect on the public, as well as up-close and personal advice from one of the "agents" who had participated in that particular mission.

This book is a quick and entertaining read, chopped up into easily digestible chapters. Some of the pranks are downright hilarious, others will just make you smile. The basic tenets of the group are to keep on the right side of the law and not harm anyone in the process of staging their acts for the public. If you enjoy improv comedy, such as the Upright Citizen's Brigade, this book wold probably be of interest to you. To learn more about Improv Everywhere, check out their website at

Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Reverend Clare Fergusson, the newly installed Episcopalian minister in upstate Miller's Kill, New York, has a lot to learn about the community, so when she discovers a newborn baby in a cardboard box near the church, she takes the opportunity to align herself with a married couple from her congregation who are interested in adopting the baby. Unfortunately, when the baby's mother, Katie, is discovered murdered, the husband of the couple turns out to be Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne's number one suspect.

Clare and Russ discover they share a background in the military as well as a common interest in solving the crime, and they form sort of a "good cop - bad cop" team, with Clare taking on a more human interest in the involved parties and Russ sticking to the facts. Their friendship grows beyond their common interests, however, as the mystery behind who murdered Katie grows when her father is also found murdered. When Clare finds herself in imminent danger, it is Russ who discovers her whereabouts and attempts to come to her aid before she becomes an additional fatality.

While I wouldn't label this book a cozy mystery, it isn't terribly gruesome or violent, and it does feature some mild swearing. It is an engaging, intelligent plot with memorable characters, and features a charming small town with some not-so-charming crimes. Russ and Clare are both likable and worthy as the hero and heroine, but Russ's marriage throws a little wrench into their blossoming friendship. Best of all, it is the first in a series, so if you like this particular book, it is easy to figure out what to read next!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

September Displays

Coming next month:

New Lenox Public Library will commemorate the September 11th attacks with a bulletin board display and related book display.

September is also the month for Banned Books Week (September 26th-October 3rd.) Again, we will be featuring a bulletin board and book display highlighting books that have been challenged or banned over the years. Watch for more on Banned Books Week in a later post!

It's National Chicken Month, National Prime Beef Month and Update Your Resume Month, so watch for book displays on those topics as well. We hope to see you soon @ your library.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

This is an ambitious work, combining history, romance, and suspense into an enveloping story, rich in detail and description. The narrator, a very unlikely protagonist, begins the story by crashing his car while under the influence, then being trapped inside while it burns around him. He is eventually rescued, although not expected to survive, due to the serious third-degree burns covering most of his body. Overnight, he has gone from being a well-paid and sought after porn star and producer to a grotesque monster, abandoned by all of his former "friends."

During his lengthy stay in the hospital, he receives a visit from a mysterious yet beautiful woman, Marianne, who claims to have known him in their previous lives. She regales him with the story of their past, in twelfth century Germany. As she is released from the hospital and continues her visits, he slowly falls in love with her. When, after months of being cared for in the burn unit, he is finally released, it is to Marianne's home that he goes for his re-entry into "normal" life.

While he settles in with Marianne, she becomes increasingly obsessed with creating her gargoyles, first spending a few days at a time creating them, but moving on to working until sheer exhaustion takes over. She claims that the gargoyles and "her masters" are hurrying her along. What will happen to our narrator when Marianne completes her final gargoyle and reaches the end of her story?

This is a story of love and loss, rebirth and renewal. Our narrator learns to open his heart to what had been previously closed. This book is both lovely and painful to read, and is so thick with storylines it seemed to take me forever to make it through...which was perfect, because it was one of those stories that I did not want to end.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Do you dream of being healthier, skinnier and happier? Have you tried multiple diets without success? Are you ready for some tough love? Well, if you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, Skinny Bitch might just be the book you are looking for.

While you wouldn't know it by looking at the title, this is actually a book espousing the benefits of a vegan diet. If this is something you are open to, and you don't mind the salty language or blunt delivery, give this book a chance. Co-authors Freedman (a "self-taught know-it-all") and Barnouin (who holds a master's degree in holistic nutrition,) do not pull any punches in this no-nonsense yet funny guide to living a healthier life. While I am not sure that a purely vegan diet is in my future, I still feel as if there were some valuable lessons to be learned from this book.

A plus is the book is small and a quick read, perfect for us busy gals on the go. The authors also list a variety of resources that I found helpful, such as products and brands they prefer, websites for products or recipes, and books and cookbooks for vegetarian lifestyles and appetites. There is also a sample menu to get you started on your way to good health. If you enjoy the content and style of this book, make sure you check out Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven, Skinny Bitchin', and for the man in your life, Skinny Bastard.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Club Update

The Adult Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room. Members will discuss Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden on September 9, 2009. A Minnesota family moves to New Orleans where they meet a fascinating group of people living on Orchid Street.

The Mystery Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B. On September 16, 2009, members will discuss Killer View by Ridley Pearson. Sheriff Walt Fleming returns to search for his friend who has disappeared.

Stop by to pick up your copy at the Adult Services Reference Desk on the second floor.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a unique love story, but it is also a biography of a man’s life captured in snapshots as he travels through time. The majority of his traveling revolves around the woman who is to become his wife. The main character, Henry, has the unique opportunity of meeting her (Clare) as a young girl, as a teenager, and as an adult. Clare therefore goes her whole life knowing that this is the man she will marry. She must just wait for their timelines to meet up before they can truly be together. Like a Nicholas Sparks’s novel, this love story also has some unexpected twists and turns. Unlike a Sparks’s novel, this love story can be a bit more graphic than what one would read in say The Notebook.

Yet, with such a unique twist to a traditional love story, it may be hard for some to put this book down as the reader tries to anticipate how this story will conclude. However, there may be others who will be frustrated by the seeming tedium of a story in which the reader already appears to know the conclusion from the earliest pages: these two people will marry and share an enduring love, but there is more to the story. I myself was bored with the seemingly unending jumps in time, but as the story neared its end, I became quite curious of the fate of the main character especially as the loose threads of storylines in his life are revealed to create a comprehensive biography of The Time Traveler’s Wife. While it would not be high on my list of recommended readings, it was unique enough and captured my interest enough, especially in the last few chapters that I would probably recommend it for those who enjoy the romance genre a la Nicholas Sparks. This review refers to the audio version of the book.

Will the movie, due out August 14th, measure up? Let us know what you think! Thanks to Patti Barker for her review!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crazy Love by Leslie Morgan Steiner

Leslie Morgan had it all. At the age of 22, she had already overcome substance abuse problems, graduated from Harvard and had a great job at Seventeen magazine when she met her "knight in shining armor." Conor was handsome, he was smart, and he had overcome a tough childhood to become a successful investment banker in New York City. Sure, he was a little quirky, but Leslie was sure, with a little patience and a lot of love, they would live happily-ever-after.

Before long, they were inseparable and making plans to move in together. As their relationship progressed, so did the controlling behaviors and violence. Not only did Conor talk Leslie into putting both of their student loans into her name when they attended grad school together, he also convinced her to finance her own engagement ring. Believing that their love was one for the ages, she did these things to prove her love and commitment to their relationship. Leslie finally overcame her denial and offered Conor an ultimatum - if he hits her again, that will be the end of the relationship. He agreed to this condition, and was able to live up to it...until the night he almost killed her. Although it wasn't a totally clean break, eventually Leslie realized that in order to move forward with her life she needed to take care of herself first and foremost and Conor was nothing but an impediment to that end.

This book, a memoir, was difficult to read at times, as it should be. Leslie was fortunate enough to have enough resources and education to help lift her out of the cycle of abuse, something that many women lack. I believe it took alot of courage to write this book, and whether or not the reader can relate to Leslie's situation, it is inspiring to read. It takes a hard look at love, what it is, and most of all, what it is not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

True Colors by Kristin Hannah

The Grey family has always been an important fixture in the town of Oyster Shores, Washington, since their great-grandfather helped found the town in the 1800's. The three sisters, Winona, Aurora and Vivi Ann, are following in the footsteps of generations past, tied to the town by the family ranch and each other. They have learned to stick together through thick and thin.

Since the death of their mother when the girls were teens, their father has been distant and unflinching with high expectations of his daughters. Winona, who never took to life at the ranch, went on to become a lawyer, Aurora married and had twins, but the beautiful Vivi Ann loved the ranch and was a natural horse woman, earning the approval of her father, much to Winona's consternation. Adding to Win's jealousy is the fact that her childhood crush, Luke, comes back to town and is immediately smitten with Vivi Ann. When Vivi Ann's actions betray her lack of feelings for Luke, Winona takes the opportunity to betray her sister in the hopes of winning Luke's favor.

As the women grow older, rifts continue between Vivi Ann and Winona, while Aurora tries to keep everyone together. Eventually, Win has the opportunity to help her sister in a legal matter in which she had previously refused involvement. Will this bring the family back together? Will Win's father ever accept her for who she is? Will Win ever get over herself?

Hannah's talent is writing about women for women. This book immediately sucked me in, but then sort of dried up in the middle before picking up speed again. The ending was fairy tale quality, but it will leave readers happy. Kristin Hannah is a great choice for summer reading - if you like True Colors, try one of her many older titles, such as Firefly Lane, Distant Shores, or On Mystic Lake.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Winter in Wisconsin, 1907 is a stark, sometimes brutal sometimes beautiful season, words that can also be used to describe this novel. Catherine Land, a beautiful, but no longer young woman, has answered a newspaper ad for "a reliable wife." Ralph Truitt, aging, rich, and lonely has selected Catherine from dozens of replies, based on her description of herself as a simple and honest woman and the picture she sent, which is actually of her much plainer cousin India. Despite her obvious deceptions, Ralph goes forward with his plan to marry her.

The reader soon learns that both parties have ulterior motives in mind - Catherine to inherit Ralph's money and live in luxury with her much younger lover, and Ralph to use Catherine to bring his long-estranged son back home and quench his eternal loneliness. The novel quietly twists and turns along these plot lines while each of them realizes that fulfilling their deepest wishes may not be what brings them satisfaction after all.

Goolrick's writing is hypnotizing - his rich visual descriptions drew me in until I could hear, smell, feel and see through the character's eyes. The book quietly seethes with passion and teeters on madness, examining the human condition in all of its capablilities. While it is a book to be savored, it is suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning until the end. I highly recommend this book to fans of gothic or romantic novels, or anyone who is a lover of language. Some readalike suggestions are:

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Monday, July 20, 2009

Downloadable Book!!! My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler

If you are ready for a politically incorrect, unapologetic and unhealthy look at love in the fast lane, you might be ready for Chelsea Handler's first book, My Horizontal Life. Handler, the host of the E! network show, "Chelsea Lately," has written a hilarious, if not raunchy, memoir of her sexual history, leaving few, if any, stones unturned.

Chelsea's alcohol and drug-fueled conquests sometimes left me feeling hungover myself, but they also always left me laughing. Her ability to poke fun at herself and her loved ones are one of the reasons this book works for me - who doesn't like to hear about other families' dysfunctions? While this book certainly isn't for everyone, I would recommend it for fans of Chelsea or comedy in general. There is strong language, alcohol and drug use, and, of course, plenty of sexual situations as well as frank sexual talk. If you can get past these factors and are looking for a funny and light read, give Chelsea Handler a try. You might also want to try her second book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.

I chose to listen to this title on my iPod, by downloading the book through our new OMNI library website ( Chelsea does not narrate this book; however, Cassandra Campbell does a masterful job of capturing Chelsea's attitude and her sense of comedic timing is impeccable. I am typically not an audio book type of gal - I am far too easily distracted - but this particular book is written in little snippets of stories, so it is easy to pop in and out of the book without losing the momentum of the story. At times, it almost seemed more like a stand-up routine rather than a book, but I enjoyed it either way. I am looking forward to more from Chelsea Handler in the future.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors whose books I cannot wait for - beginning with her first book, Good in Bed, she has captured audiences with her wonderful characters and story lines. Her new book, Best Friends Forever, meets all these expectations and then some.

Addie Downs seems to have it all - she's young (33,) attractive, has a successful career and a beautiful home - the only thing she is lacking is someone to share it with. Other than her brother Jon, brain-damaged in a car accident as a teenager, she has no family or friends. One night, her best friend from high school shows up at her door after a 15 year absence, desperately asking for Addie's help and completely disrupting her quiet life.

Valerie Adler, Addie's best friend from childhood, has left her small town behind, working as a "meteorologist" for Fox News in Chicago. She and Addie's relationship fell apart during their senior year, but the reader does not learn the details until well into the book. The whole reason for their falling out is what has led Val into the trouble she is currently experiencing. Despite Addie's usual common sense, she allows herself to be drawn into Val's web, and joins her on her plan to "get out of town for awhile." The two unlikely fugitives head south in Addie's parents' old station wagon, with the town sheriff, who has the hots for Addie, not far behind. What transpires is a wacky tale of friendship and forgiveness, complete with a BIG surprise at the end.

If you enjoy this particular book, give Jennifer's other books a try. Also check out her wonderful website and blog at This is a perfect book for some light summer reading - it will leave you smiling. The only problem I have with this book is that now I have to wait forever for her next one to come out!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

August Book Clubs at the Library

The Adult Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room. Members will discuss The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton on August 12, 2009. In this novel, cultures collide when an American librarian goes to Africa to start a traveling library.

The Mystery Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B. On August 19, 2009, members will discuss Brass Verdict by bestselling author Michael Connelly. This is Connelly's latest crime thriller featuring LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Stop by to pick up your copy at the Adult Services Reference Desk on the second floor.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper! by Larry Doyle

Denis Cooverman, valedictorian for his Buffalo Grove High School graduating class has no idea that he is about to experience the night of a lifetime (which in his case would not take much.) Rather than present the usual rabble that goes in one ear and out the other, he takes the opportunity with his graduation speech to single out a few of the people who made his life more difficult during his high school years. He also calls out his best friend to admit that he is gay, but not before announcing to the sweaty mass of humanity filling the gymnasium that he, debate team captain and frequent target of harassment, Denis Cooverman, was in love with the head cheerleader and most popular girl in school, Beth Cooper.

At the post-graduation reception, Denis is anticipating receiving the accolades of his peers; however, as usual, no one pays attention to him, until Beth Cooper herself approaches him. Panicked, he invites her and her 2 friends to an impromptu party at his house later that evening. The chain of events that follow after Beth and her friends actually show up at his "party" consisting of Denis and his possible gay best friend, Rich, are unprecedented in Denis's young life.

This is your typical high school nerd breaks out of his mold story; however, the writing is snappy, the book moves along at a frenetic pace, and the dialogue is clever. It reminded me very much of one of John Hughes' movies from the '80's, such as "Sixteen Candles" or "Weird Science." Be forewarned, however - there is excessive violence, sexual encounters of all sorts, and substance abuse galore so if any of that subject matter offends, this may not be the fun summer read you are looking for. If you plan on seeing the major motion picture of the same title that is currently out, it would be an interesting comparison to read the book before you see the movie!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

Abby and Mitch, high school sweethearts devoted to one another, were about to take a very big step in their relationship when the fates intervened, altering their lives forever. While heading downstairs to Abby's father's medical office for some protection, Mitch witnesses Abby's father, a respected doctor, and his best friend's father, the sheriff, bring in the frozen young body of a beautiful young woman. Before he can recover from the shock of what he sees, he is further traumatized when he witnesses Abby's dad covering the girl's face with some plastic bags and battering it with a baseball bat. The next morning, Mitch has unexpectedly left town, leaving Abby and his best friend, Rex, hurt, confused and dealing with his unexplained absence.

Fast-forward 18 years: Abby is a small-business owner, still single, and still affected by Mitch's disappearance all those years ago. She is dating Rex's n'er-do-well brother, Patrick, who may be responsible for the Virgin's death. Rex has taken over as the sheriff of the county, his father's old job, and is also still at a loss over Mitch's absence. The body of the young girl whom Mitch had seen at Abby's house was never claimed, but the town raised enough money to bury her with a large headstone. Over the years, she became known as the "Virgin" around town, and was even rumored to perform miracles for people from beyond the grave. With the advent of the internet, the "Virgin's" reputation has grown, and people come from all over to ask the deceased woman for help.

After all the years of the mystery of the Virgin simmering just under the town's surface, Abby, Rex, and Mitch are about to be reunited to discover the truth of the crime once and for all. What they discover shocks and sickens them and the entire town of Small Plains. Will anyone else have to die in order to keep the secret of the Virgin safe?

Nancy Pickard tells an intriguing tale of suspense in this quick read. Although some of the plot seems a bit contrived and hard to fathom, I was still into the book enough to stick with it through the end. The story begs the question of how far one will go to protect a friendship, a family and a town. The use of miracles in the book illustrates how one person's miracle is another person's tragedy, and how, in the end, people will reap what they sow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

enLIGHTened by Jessica Berger Gross

In my never-ending quest for a healthier lifestyle that works for my lazy self, I picked up this book about yoga, diet, and overcoming the obstacles in our lives that prevent us from ultimate mental, emotional and physical health.

Jessica Berger Gross grew up in an abusive household where both of her parents worked to support the family. Meals were most often ones of convenience, with little thought to the effects the food was having on the family's health. Between eating to comfort and insulate herself from the issues in her family and the unhealthy nature of the food that was eaten, Jessica developed a weight problem that would plague her on and off through much of her young life.

One semester in college, she traveled to Nepal to study. Here she was forced to walk to most places, while eating primarily vegetarian meals, and she lost weight without even trying. She was also able to continue her dabbling with yoga, which she was first introduced to in high school. While these healthy habits would not continue consistently upon her return, the seeds had been planted for healthier, more sustainable habits that would eventually bloom into a full-blown lifestyle.

I enjoyed this book a great deal - it is never preachy or condescending, it includes some yogic teachings and poses, as well as small tips and recipes that were helpful to the author as she found her way. Jessica also shares some of the very personal struggles she endured before she found herself in the healthy place she is today. I found this book to be very inspiring but not heavy or pressure-inducing. While I don't ever see myself living as clean a life as Jessica, this book gives me hope that small steps can make a big difference.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Do you like a little history with your fiction? Or a little fiction with your history? This book might just work for you.

Connie Goodwin has just completed her qualifying exam to enter the dissertation program at Harvard. Rather than spend the summer doing research for her PhD, she moves up to Marblehead, Massachusetts to clean up her grandmother's long-abandoned house. The house turns out to be straight out of the last century, with no electricity, no phone, and rudimentary running water. It's also full of antiques, strange substances in glass jars, and old books, one of which hides a key with a mysterious parchment on it.

Soon Connie is too busy researching the name on the parchment - Deliverance Dane - to devote much time to her studies, much to her advisor's displeasure. She discovers that Deliverance was tried for being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials, and has possibly left behind a book detailing all of her "spells." Throw in a brewing romance, and Connie has her hands full for the summer. When her new friend, Sam, becomes seriously ill, it is up to Connie to discover the whereabouts of Deliverance's book in order to help Sam recover - can she do it in time to save him?

This book has a little bit of everything - history, romance, suspense, magic, etc. I especially enjoyed the historical details of life in the colonies during different eras. If you enjoy reading about Deliverance Dane, give The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff a try, another book that features both contemporary and historical family stories. This book is great for beach reading or settling in for a long day on a lounge chair or hammock. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Dewey Readmore Books, a shivering, bedraggled tiny orange kitten, found out what good luck and wonderful, kind library staff and patrons were all about. From the first few words of the book, it is almost impossible not to be drawn into this true story of a kitten who fell upon great fortune - good people and a satisfying place to call home: a library - despite an inauspicious introduction to the library and his library friends.

Dewey is more than a story of hardship or of a kitten triumphantly rescued from death’s door on a frigid, icy Iowa morning. Rather this is a story of life, and lives, and how intertwined lives can become. This is a book that reminds us that animals can snuggle their way into our hearts and lives even if we didn’t intend it to happen; they can easily connect with us in ways we never expected.Dewey shared his 18 years with so many in Spencer, IA. He taught many valuable lessons, such as be happy with what you have, and share your unique gifts of love. Dewey speaks to some of the mysteries of life, libraries, and a very special “someone.”A wonderful, easy and pleasant read, of course, for animal lovers, and especially cat lovers.

Thanks to Paula N. for the review!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Liesel Meminger has just watched her little brother die and be buried in a strange town when her mother deposits her with her new foster parents in the small town of Molching, Germany and disappears. Needless to say, Liesel has some trouble adjusting to all the changes in her 9-year-old life, waking up every night in her new home with a nightmare. Luckily, her new Papa, Hans Hubermann, is a gentle, kind man, who takes Liesel under his wing, sitting up with her every night when she has her nightmares, eventually using this time to teach the illiterate child to read. His wife, Rosa, is rough around the edges, and while Liesel grows to love her as well, she is closest to her Papa.

Liesel, the Book Thief, stole her first book at her brother's burial - The Gravedigger's Handbook - when it fell out of the grave digger's pocket. Hans teaches her to read with this book and doesn't ask too many questions when she comes home with other books, but reads them along with her. Words become of utmost importance and comfort in Liesel's life.

Growing up in wartime Germany, Liesel is witness to many acts of cruelty, but also acts of great courage and kindness. Her neighbor, best friend, and co-conspirator, Rudy, is her loyal companion and continuously demonstrates his willingness to to anything for her. Zusak shines the light on the other side of Nazi Germany - not everyone was a goose-stepping monster, there were plenty of good-hearted folks living within the regime.

The tale is narrated by Death himself, who is quite taken by Liesel the first time he meets her, when he collects her brother's soul. Through his telling, occasional asides and foreshadowing, we get to know and love Liesel (and sort of get a kick out of Death.) The writing in this book is absolutely lovely in its imagery, language, and style. Zusak has written an unforgettable book about the Holocaust, about life, about love and friendship, and also about death. Who could resist a book where books are so crucial to the story line? This book is actually marketed towards Young Adults; however, it is a wonderful read for adults and older teens alike. Do yourself a favor, stick with the beginning which can be a little daunting to get into, have the tissues handy, and dive right in to this book. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beach Reads

Are you looking for a good summer read? Here are a few suggestions of books that are not to heavy, perfect for a relaxing day at the beach, in a hammock, or just lounging around the house:

Jennifer Weiner, one of my favorite authors, has a new book coming out in July, Best Friends Forever. If you cannot get your hands on this one in time for your getaway, one of her older titles is always a great choice as well. Good in Bed, the hilarious tale of a plus-sized woman whose ex-boyfriend publicly humiliates her in a magazine column is a great beach read.

Charlaine Harris's "Southern Vampire Series," featuring Sookie Stackhouse, has reached an all new audience with the advent of the "True Blood" television series on HBO. The books (and Sookie) are funny, sexy, and full of the supernatural. The first in the series, Dead Until Dark, was published in 2001.

A book that is receiving plenty of buzz is a memoir called, Perfection, by Julie Metz. After her husband unexpectedly passes away, Metz learns that he has had several affairs over the course of their marriage. Rather than ignore these facts, Metz chooses to confront the women. The knowledge that this is a true story adds to the interest level; however, some early reviews found the book to be very dark and "mean-spirited."

The "Nerd" series by Vicki Lewis Thompson is a fun and sexy choice for the summer. Each book features different characters that have two things in common - they are nerds, and they are sexy. Although this is technically a series, each book can be read on its own, so there is no need to read the books in order.

The Beach House by Jane Green is a wistful tale of an older woman who, out of financial necessity, opens up her Nantucket home to renters. Suddenly, this hermitic widow has people in her life once again, including her son Michael. With her old house now teeming with life, Nan finds herself learning to open herself up once again.

Wendy Wax has a smart new paperback out, titled The Accidental Bestseller. When three professional writers come together to help their floundering friend Kendall write a final book to fulfill her contractual obligations, they decide to publish it anonymously, giving them the freedom to share some pretty shocking secrets in the book. Can they all live up to the scrutiny when the story becomes a surprise bestseller?

Sophie Kinsella veers away from her "Shopaholic" series this summer with Twenties Girl, a tale about twenty-something Lara and the relationship she forges with the ghost of her Great-Aunt Sadie. This is a light mystery, with Sadie pressuring Lara to search for a piece of family jewelry despite the many other things Lara has going on in modern-day London. Also watch for The Wedding Girl, written under Sophie Kinsella's real name - Madeline Wickham.

If none of these books sound appealing to you, give us a call or stop in for further selections - we have too many great reads here, and we're sure to have something for everyone. Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i is the poignant tale of a young girl who is diagnosed with leprosy in the late 1800's, and sent to the leper colony on the island of Moloka'i, in the Hawaiian islands. Rachel Kalama is the baby of her close knit family. Growing up in Honolulu, the world is her playground, until one day an odd wound is discovered on her leg - her mother is able to keep it covered up, and warns the children not to tell anyone about it. One day, Rachel and her sister Sarah get into a knock-down, drag 'em out fight, and Sarah calls Rachel a "dirty leper" during the midst of it. The health inspector is waiting for Rachel when she gets home. She is removed from her family and taken to a hospital for testing, ultimately ending up at the leper colony on Moloka'i, far removed from friends and family.

Due to the extreme toll leprosy seemed to take on the Hawaiian natives and the lack of knowledge of communicable diseases, the Moloka'i settlement was created so that lepers would not be spreading their illness to others. What was not taken into account was the effect this isolation had on the patients' emotional and mental well-being. Despite the fact Rachel's uncle and girlfriend were already living on the island, Rachel had to move into a boarding school for girls, run by nuns. Here, Rachel grows into a young woman, forging relationships with both other patients and nuns that will span a lifetime. The book follows the course of her life - her loves, her losses, her triumphs and her defeats. Despite being banished to a remote island due to her illness, Rachel manages to live a full and satisfying life.

I do not want to give too much away, as I want you to fall in love with Rachel yourself, as I did. She is a strong and incorrigible spirit who fights for what and who she believes in. Despite being handed the equivalent of a death sentence when banished to Moloka'i, Rachel chooses life and love over death and misery. She refuses to be defined by her illness. Not only was Rachel's tale inspiring, the story of Moloka'i - a real place - was also intriguing. This book is a fine work of historical fiction, mixing just the right amount of fact with fiction, and I look forward to reading Brennert's latest, Honolulu.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

There is the excitement of exhilirating action - Denny Swift is a race car driver. It is a family story: Eve and daughter Zoe help to make Denny’s life whole and happy. But it is Enzo, a Labrador-terrier mix who through thick and thin remains steadfastly at Denny’s side and is Denny’s support and cheerleader. Enzo’s perspective drives this story of how to go about this thing called life. Enzo loves everything he is able to experience, learning about racing, life and what it means to be – well, human. His main regret is that he does not have opposable thumbs; and he can’t wait to become a human in his next life, which he surely believes he will become. He tells us of his bursts of insight; he tells us about his tiny gleaned truths.

Though this story is somewhat over the top, still it is a joyous exclamation mark about what it means to be compassionate, loving and able to succeed even in the face of wrenching, heartbreaking loss. It touches on themes of loyalty, faithfulness, hope, and life at its most incongruous. Racing is a metaphor for life and its challenges, turns and jolts and remembering to appreciate the present. All from the perspective of a dog’s eyes. For animal lovers and race driving enthusiasts this is a warm and charming story. It is mostly about how a dog masterfully holds a family together in his unique style.

A wonderful read. Plan to wistfully use your Kleenex. (Review courtesy of Paula N! Thank you!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Picoult tackles another tough topic in her latest offering. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe, happily married, are trying to conceive a child. While they already have a daughter, Amelia, from a previous relationship of Charlotte's, they would like nothing more than to add another member to their family. Charlotte seeks out the assistance of her best friend, Piper, who also happens to be an Ob-Gyn. Despite her initial hesitancy, Piper agrees to treat her friend.

During an ultrasound in Charlotte's 27th week of pregnancy, Piper notices something alarming - the baby has multiple broken bones. She immediately refers Charlotte and Sean to a specialist, where they learn that their baby has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI,) or brittle bone disease, and may not even survive the birth experience. They choose to continue the pregnancy, and baby Willow makes it through the birth, developing into a smart - but fragile - little girl.

Through a chain of events that unfold, Charlotte gets it in her head that she would like to sue for wrongful birth, in an effort to gain some financial security for Willow's future. Of course, this will mean that she will be suing her best friend, as well as having to testify that Willow's birth was a mistake. Her decision is controversial, both in the community and within her own family, causing a rift with her husband, as well as contributing to Amelia's already problematic self-loathing.

I won't include any spoilers here, however this book reminded me alot of My Sister's Keeper, also written by Picoult. Handle With Care is told from multiple viewpoints, enabling the reader to get into each character's head and life in order to better comprehend their particular perspective. Each character's voice is as if they are speaking to Willow; yet the reader never hears from Willow herself. Picoult is as masterful as always with her storytelling abilities, and I found it difficult to put this one down. Have some tissues at hand and get ready to fall in love with Willow! If you have not read My Sister's Keeper, I would highly recommend that title as well.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Sell by Clancy Martin

How to Sell is billed as a dark comedy type of book, and, yes, it is definitely dark, but I am not sure how funny it actually was. Bobby Clark is 16 years old and already on his way to a life of crime when he is expelled from school after stealing a case of class rings. Out of options, he decides to head south from his native Canada, and hook up with his older brother, Jim, who is working in the jewelry business in Texas.

Upon his arrival, Bobby is immediately hired on at the jewelry store where Jim is one of the top salesmen. He also meets Lisa, Jim's girlfriend, with whom he shortly begins a relationship as well. Not only does Bobby receive quite the education into the corrupt world of jewelry sales, he also picks up Jim's cocaine and Lisa's speed habits. Eventually, the store owner is arrested for his business habits, Lisa finds herself in some big mysterious trouble and drops out of both Jim's and Bobby's life. The story picks up several years later.

Bobby is now married with a daughter, yet he maintains a relationship with "the Polack," as she prefers to be called, a saleswoman at their shop. He and Jim have opened up their own jewelry shop, utilizing the same unethical tactics as their previous employers. One night, feeling restless, Bobby calls an escort whose number he received from Jim. When he reaches her, she informs him that she is out of the business, but has a friend who might be interested. Bobby is astonished to see that this friend is in fact Lisa. Despite the fact that she is currently working as a prostitute and has a very involved boyfriend, Bobby hopes to pick up where they left off years ago, with disastrous results.

I suppose one might consider Jim and Bobby's father a source of comic relief, if he also wasn't such a tragic figure. Long divorced from the boys' mother, he is a charming philanderer who floats from community to community starting churches and convincing people that he consults with "astral beings" and a woman named "Priscilla" who lives on a "parallel plane," whose guidance he takes quite seriously.

How to Sell is a quick read and well-written. The characters are rather shallow, but this adds to the overall story of their greed as a way of life. The American dream is alive and well in this story, where the characters sell not only jewelry, but themselves and each other. It is a bleak look at life in the fast lane, and one that will likely stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Truly Plaice knows what it is like to be an outsider - gargantuan since birth, in contrast to her lovely and petite older sister, she grew up on the fringes of society and family. Her mother died giving birth to her, something her father never recovered from, passing away when Truly was 12. While Serena Jane, Truly's sister was snapped up by the local minister and his wife, Truly was taken in by the Dyerson's, a poverty-stricken family who resided outside of town.

The girls grew up very differently. Serena Jane was doted on at school by Miss Sparrow, the town's teacher, while she barely tolerated Truly's presence. Serena Jane had all the lates fashions, her clothes neatly pressed, while Truly wore men's clothes because she could not fit into girls' or even women's clothing. Serena Jane was surrounded by her disciples wherever she went, while Truly had only 2 friends - Amelia, the Dyerson's quiet daughter and Marcus, who loved Truly despite what everyone else thought. Serena Jane was raised as a young lady, Truly helped out August Dyerson with the horses and learned how to throw races to her benefit.

As Truly enters adulthood, she leaves the Dyersons to move in with Serena Jane's husband, Robert Morgan, the town doctor, and her nephew Bobbie after Serena Jane abandons them. While Robert continues the cruel behavior he showed Truly as a child, she stays on due to her love of her nephew. Throughout it all, Truly continues to grow, which Robert gleefully points out to her during her checkups. While Truly tends to her nephew, she also discovers that a family heirloom quilt holds more than just traditional stitches - it is a record previously only rumored to exist - a guide to potions handed down from generation to generation of medicinal herbs and potions from the first Mrs. Robert Morgan, Tabitha. Truly begins experimenting with various mixtures on the sly.

This is a story of dichotomies - Truly vs. Serena Jane, pretty vs. ugly, love vs. hate, big vs. small, mercy vs. murder, forgiveness vs. revenge, etc. and how they may not be as opposite as we sometimes think. Through all of her trials, Truly remains true to herself - although she entertains and sometimes acts on her feelings of revenge, in the end, her compassion and love shine through. She endures the tragic loss of a friend as well as her sister but gains the everlasting love of her nephew and eventually, the respect of her small town. This is a heartwarming story of sorrow and joy, and Truly is "truly" larger than life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

This book, and its sequel, Pigs in Heaven, are far and away my favorite Barbara Kingsolver books. They tell the story of Taylor Greer, a simple and straightforward young lady from Kentucky who strikes out on her own with an old junky car and what little money she has to find her way in the world. Heading west across the U.S., she winds up encountering a little more adventure than she bargained for.

On her way through Oklahoma, Taylor is basically handed a little girl - she is of Cherokee descent, pretty much catatonic, and the woman who gives her to Taylor insinuates that she will be far better of away from there. Taylor calls her "Turtle" due to the strong, clinging grip the girl has. As they make their way further west, it is evident that Turtle has not had an easy life, but Taylor provides her with the first stability she's known in quite some time. They make it as far as Tucson, where her car finally gives up. Luckily, one of the first people she meets is Mattie, the proprietor of the tire shop where she takes her car.

Mattie is a nurturing, yet tough woman who takes Taylor and Turtle under her wing, eventually giving Taylor a job at the shop. Taylor moves in with another single mother, Lou Ann, and together they forge a unique family unit, taking each day as it comes. Through Mattie, who seems to have lots of different people staying with her at various times, Taylor meets Estevan and Esperanza, a married couple on the run from Guatemala, to whom she grows quite close.

Following a close call with Turtle, a social worker becomes involved with Taylor and Turtle, discovering that Taylor has no legal rights to Turtle. She points Taylor in the right direction to have this amended, and Taylor and Turtle set off for Oklahoma, bringing Estevan and Esperanza, who are headed for a safe house in the same area. Will they make it safely? Will Turtle be returned to her biological family? You'll have to read it to find out....

This is a heartwarming, if implausible, story of fighting against the odds, love and friendship. Published in 1988, a new paperback edition has just been released for those of us who may have missed this one the first time around. Interestingly, immigration is one of the subjects tackled by Kingsolver in this book, something that is as timely today as it was in the 80's. Taylor will have you cheering, for her strength, her vulnerability, and her ability to love. This is a wonderful story of underdogs and their fight for life, and I also heartily recommend the sequel, Pigs in Heaven for those who would like to continue Taylor and Turtle's story.