Friday, January 23, 2009

Want to Get Away?

Is the crazy winter weather getting you down? Here are a few book titles to take you away from it least for a couple of hours!

Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand. Three longtime friends have a ritual - champagne, skinny dipping and sharing secrets - over the Labor Day weekend on Nantucket Island. One night, one of the friends goes for a swim and doesn't return. As the two remaining friends search for her, they uncover all kinds of deceptions that call their own perceptions about themselves and each other into question.

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. Sydney, once divorced and once widowed at age 29, is still in shock over her husband's death when she signs on as a summer tutor to the 18 year-old daughter of a wealthy family, to be spent at the family beach house. When the family's 2 grown sons show up one weekend, things start to change for Sydney, as well as the entire family.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot. Lizzie cannot wait to graduate from college so she can go visit her boyfriend, Andrew, in London for the summer. Trouble is, once she arrives, she discovers that Andrew is not quite the bloke she thought he was. Throwing caution to the wind, she heads out to discover Europe, but will she learn to keep her mouth shut in the process?

Nerd in Shining Armour by Vicki Lewis Thompson. When Genevieve is set to accompany her handsome boss on an overnight trip to Maui, she couldn't be more thrilled. Things start going downhill, however, when she learns that nerdy computer guy Jack will be joining them, then get downright bad when the boss parachutes out of the plane, leaving Genevieve and Jack to fend for themselves. Not only can Jack land a plane, he has lots of other useful skills, which Genevieve discovers in this fun and frolicking book.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen. Joey Perrone was supposed to be dead, at the hands of her hapless and crooked husband, but the fun is just beginning as she and her rescuer plan their revenge. Hiaasen delivers with another fun and riotous romp through the heat and humidity of South Florida.

Pemberley By the Sea by Abigail Reynolds. A modern-day Pride and Prejudice, which also happens to be marine biologist Cassie's favorite book; however, when a real-life Mr. Darcy walks into her life, she's not buying it. Can Calder convince her of his genuine feelings for her?

We have plenty of other titles to help you escape this winter! Come on in and let one of our friendly library staff assist you!

If I am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus

This was a strange little book. I picked it up after reading the description and learning that the title was derived from a letter that was written by the author's sister; the letter was found in Amy Latus's desk at work following her disappearance. Rather than a book solely devoted to her sister's story, however, the author also uses this opportunity to share her own experiences with domestic violence.

Amy and Janine grew up in a traditional family, 2 of 5 children. While their mother remained a strong support for the girls their entire lives, their father was more on the creepy side, using inappropriate touches and comments towards his female children, eventually completely alienating them from him. Janine moves out of the house prior to finishing high school, yet manages to graduate and go on to college. Amy, the baby of the family, remains at home with her increasingly unhappy parents.

As the girls grow up and move into serious relationships, they find themselves in a pattern of behavior that is all too common in abusive partnerships - when things are good they're great; but when they are bad, they are dangerously bad. Janine leaves one abusive relationship for a charming, handsome doctor, who she marries; Amy marries an alcoholic who she ends up supporting most of the length of their marriage. One of the reasons Amy's story is such a tragedy is that she left this bad marriage, started taking care of herself, attended graduate school and was enjoying her life - only to have the whole cycle start over again when she became involved with an ex-con named Ron Ball.

I expected this to be a book about Amy, but it was mostly about Janine and her own abusive relationship. I found it an interesting comparison, as Janine was able to leave her abusive relationship right around the time Amy was murdered. This book is difficult to read - the pain and humiliation endured by these two women will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Amy's story will live on through this book and hopefully inspire others to break the cycle of abuse.

If you or someone you know is a victim of family violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). This is a 24 hour hotline accessible from all 50 states that can provide you with information on local programs and shelters.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finding Your Chicago Ancestors by Grace DuMelle

Greetings friends! This is absolutely one of my favorite books on genealogy. It has helped me find the answers to many of the questions I have had regarding my family history. My Polish and German ancestors immigrated to the Chicago area after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and looking for any information about them can be challenging.

This book is particularly beneficial to the beginner who has the desire to discover who their ancestors were but may not understand how to go about obtaining the information they seek. In this book, you will find easy step by step directions on how to begin looking for answers to your genealogical questions. Where do I start? Who were my ancestors' parents? Where did they live? When did they marry? How many children did they have? When did they die and where are they buried? This book can steer you in the right direction to discover the answers to many of those questions.

You will learn how to use the federal census records to find where your ancestors lived and what they did for a living. Vital records provide information on marriages, births, and deaths. The author, Grace DuMelle tells you what resources are here in Chicago to help you get a copy of those important records. Church records, city directories, social security applications, divorce records, probate, and naturalization records are also discussed. Again, resources are listed in the book to help you obtain the records for your particular ancestor.

Grace DuMelle, the author, focuses clearly on resources available here in the Chicago area for your Chicago ancestors. Using nearby research facilities such as the National Archives and Records Administration, Family History Centers, Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) center, Cook County resources and genealogical libraries is also discussed in detail. Because we all can't easily get to a specific research facility, information is also listed regarding where to write for help in answering many of your questions.

I found this book a "must have," so I went out and bought it. It has provided me with many avenues to search for the answers to my genealogy questions. You don't have to visit your local bookstore because Finding Your Chicago Ancestors is available here at the New Lenox Public Library. The call number is 929.1 DUM. Happy hunting!

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

If you want to be inspired or have a need to be humbled, then read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, agreed to give a last lecture knowing that he didn’t have long to live. But his lecture was not about dying; it was about seizing the moment. It was about living.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

This is a book that I have wanted to read for a very long time, and it finally seemed the right time just after the holidays. This book is part memoir, part book discussion, and part intimate look inside the lives of Iranian women during the 1980's and 90's.

Nafisi, an Iran native who studied in the U.S. before returning home, is a professor at the University of Tehran, teaching Western Literature to her students. Through her unique perspective as an intellectual and academic, we see the changes that occur in Iranian life, where human rights are slowly being eroded, the western culture, particularly the Unites States is viewed as the epitamy of all things evil, and free thought is attempted to be regulated by the increasingly fundamentalist government. Nafisi's classes are popular, despite the fact a few students only enroll in them to challenge the literature being studied. Eventually, when she refuses to comply with the new rule that all women must wear veils in public, she is expelled from the university.

When she finds herself with extra time on her hands, she decides to hold a class out of her house, for a select few of her favorite and most promising students. As they meet weekly in her living room, the women begin to shed their veils, along with the constraints of life and open up to one another. As they study different works of great literature, each is able to apply what they read to their lives, and learn to share some of the hardships they have encountered as a result of the greater restrictions on their personal freedoms. As time goes on, Nafisi convinces her husband to leave Iran with their children and emigrate to the U.S., leaving the members of the group, all able and highly educated, to make their own mark on the world.

While I obviously wasn't expecting this book to a light and fluffy romp, it was heavier than I expected, and took me longer to read than I anticipated. I think part of the reason for my perception is that I, sadly, have not read most of the books that were being discussed (I know, I am a poor excuse for a librarian!) and the one I do remember reading (The Great Gatsby) I read well over 20 years ago. I would definitely recommend reading at least some of the works (Lolita, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice) featured prior to reading this book, I believe it would greatly enhance the parallels being made. I really enjoyed this book because Nafisi successfully portrays how the arts enrich our lives, no matter who we are and where we live, and gives me a peek into a culture I do not know very much about. One point that was reinforced by reading this book is that despite all of our differences, at the heart of things, we are all human beings yearning for beauty and freedom in our lives.

If you enjoy Reading Lolita in Tehran, here are some additional titles that might appeal to you as well:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This unique autobiography, told in the form of a graphic novel, covers Satrapi's life from the age of 10, when the Islamic Revolution in Iran began, until the age of 14, when her parents sent her to Europe for her own safety.

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez. When Rodriguez volunteers to go to Afghanistan as a nurse's aid, she has no idea her skills as a hairdresser will be much more in demand. This book chronicles her experiences and struggles opening up a beauty school in this culture.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. This is an extraordinary look at behind-the-scenes life in Kabul by Norwegian journalist Seierstad, who lived for 3 months with Sultan Khan, a bookseller, and his family.

My Forbidden Face by Latifa. This is an interesting perspective from the author, who was only 16 when the Taliban overtook Kabul and placed severe restrictions on women's rights. Located in our Teen section.