Friday, February 27, 2009

Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion

"I will never, ever, EVER, not in a million years, live on a bus."

So declares Doreen Orion, when her husband and fellow psychiatrist shares his dream of purchasing and refurbishing a bus in order to travel around the United States for a year. Doreen, a self-described princess, likes lounging in bed, staying in her pajamas as long as possible every day, and watching her husband cook and clean. She also is an avid shopper and has accrued quite a collection of designer clothing, shoes and accessories over the years - most of which will have to be left behind while on the road.

Doreen's husband, Tim, is too good to be true. He is a real go-getter and much more active than his better half. He is also the major impetus behind the bus adventure, with his wife's begrudging support. Their relationship is truly one of opposites, but they really balance each other out in a rather charming way. Together they work with a bus customizing company to create the home (on wheels) of their dreams.

After working through many of the kinks on their 3 week long test trip, the pair, along with their dog and 2 cats embark on the trip of a lifetime, during which they will visit 46 of the lower 48 states, as well as Alaska. As the trip progresses, Doreen finds herself opening up to new experiences, overcoming her bus phobia, enjoying the bus culture, and appreciating her husband more than ever. She even learns that all of her material possessions aren't really all that important to her any more.

Doreen's writing style is funny and engaging, and I especially enjoyed reading about some of the offbeat places that they visited. Each chapter begins with a martini recipe that somehow relates to their adventures. By the end of the trip, Doreen has christened herself the "Queen of the Road" and their bus has made the September issue of "Bus Conversions" magazine. Doreen and Tim weather multiple obstacles during the course of their trip, but, working together, emerge stronger both as individuals and as a couple. For further details on Doreen and Tim, see her website:

If you are intrigued by Doreen and Tim's journey, or would like to sample some other "road trip" literature we have here at the library, here are some additional books that may appeal to you:

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip...with Recipes! by Guy Fieri.
Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip: the 1935 Travelogue of Two Soviet Writers by Ilia Ilf.
Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip by Dayton Duncan.
Blue Highways: A Journey into America and Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey by William Least Heat Moon.
The Ride of our Lives: Roadside Lessons from an American Family by Mike Leonard.

All these and plenty more are available at the New Lenox Public Library - for further suggestions, please call, email or visit the Reference Desk. Happy armchair traveling!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Contempt by Christopher Darden

In 1995 it was difficult to find an adult American unaware that O.J. Simpson was on trial for the murders of Nicole Brown, Simpson's wife, and Ron Goldman, Nicole's friend. The media blitz of what became known as "The Simpson Trial" was unprecedented and the news coverage was constant. Perhaps interest was so high because the trial touched a nerve with many Americans on many levels. Without question, the trial drew a heightened awareness to the issues of domestic violence, unjust police practices and the state of race relations in America, all, still "hot button" topics today.

This book gives a firsthand account from the perspective of co-prosecuting attorney, Christopher Darden.

Darden spends a little time at the beginning of the book describing his childhood of a rather meager existence but makes clear that strong family ties and a hard work ethic were instilled in him. He describes the people who helped him along the way and gives a personal glimpse into what he considers his own failings, especially in his adulthood.

However, the meat of the book really is an account of the circumstances that lead to Darden becoming co-prosecutor and some of the highlights, and "lowlights", of the actual trial. Darden recounts conversations between himself and famed defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, lead counsel for the defense, F. Lee Bailey, co-counsel for the defense, Marcia Clark, co-prosecuting attorney and Judge Lance Ito, whose face graced many a magazine cover and TV screen during the lengthy trial.

Darden also talks about the personal torment and ridicule he and his family endured because of his role in the trial as an African American male co-prosecuting an African American male.

He recounts the many pieces of evidence and replays the now famous moment when O.J. Simpson attempted to put on the infamous "bloody glove", describing in detail what he saw from exactly where he stood in the court room, and the media circus that preceded, and followed, that moment.

As an added bonus, for those who are inclined to listen to the audiobook version, Darden reads the book himself. So it is like a personal conversation listening to him, and the reader is immediately transported back to 1995 and the hoopla that surrounded what many called "The Trial of the Century".

Other books written about the trial include: Murder in Brentwood by Mark Fuhrman, 1997 and Without A Doubt by Marcia Clark, 1997, as well as the much publicized If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer released for publication in 2007. The latter book was originally scheduled for publication and then cancelled by the publisher because of public outcry that a murderer was profiting from his crime. However, the rights to the book were awarded to the Goldman and Brown families and became part of the financial settlement award as a result of the guilty verdict against Simpson in the civil suit brought by the families against Simpson. The civil trial found for the families and against Simpson in 1997, a decision that was upheld upon appeal in February, 2008. The families also added some 14,000 words to Simpson's original manuscript, and added the subtitle, Confessions of a Killer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Last Lincolns, The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family By: Charles Lachman

After reading Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton you may want to continue reading about the Lincoln family. The Last Lincolns, The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family tells not only the love story of Mary and Abraham Lincoln but the trials and tribulations that the family faced before and after Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Mary and Abraham had four children- all boys, however only one, Robert Todd Lincoln lived to adulthood and married. Mary and Abraham lost two sons even before he was elected President of the United States. After Abraham's assassination Mary became completely "undone" and suffered psychologically and physically for years. She survived widowhood by spending money foolishly and asking Congress for financial support, which eventually she was given. She escaped to Europe for a self-imposed exile searching for comfort in spas and expensive resorts. She lost another son, Tad to a tragic illness which pushed Mary further into mental disarray. Her surviving son Robert Todd Lincoln, a lawyer, helped engineer his mother's commitment to an insane asylum here in Illinois. That act forever changed their relationship.

Robert and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln had a family of their own. They too suffered the loss of a child when their only son Abraham Lincoln II, "Jack" died as a teenager. Robert contemplated a career in politics for some time, serving several minor posts for the United States, and eventually becoming President of the Pullman Company. Their daughter Mamie married a man sixteen years her senior and gave birth to her only child, a son, Lincoln Isham. To her parents disappointment, Jessie married three different times and had two children; Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith and Peggy Beckwith.

Lincoln, Robert, and Peggy were the last direct descendants of Mary and Abraham Lincoln. Linc went on the marry but never had any children. Robert was married three times and although one of his wives had a son, the son was not Robert's. That court case was finally settled in 1986, one year after Robert's death . Peggy inherited her grandmother's estate Hildene but allowed it to fall into disrepair. Peggy never married.

This book is certainly well worth reading. You feel like you are indeed reading a family history, not one filled with glorious attributes, but real life challenges, disappointments, and rewards. Enjoy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Major Motion Pictures this Month...Based on Books!

As winter (hopefully) starts winding down, this is an ideal time to escape to the movies. There are three potential blockbusters due out this month which are based on well-known books:

"Coraline," based on the book by Neil Gaiman, is a stop-action film from the director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Henry Selick. Coraline is a young girl who discovers an alternative world through a secret door in her new home. This world mirrors her real world, only everything seems better...or is it? Will Coraline be able to return to her real life or will she be forever trapped in an alternate reality that has turned from wonderful to dangerous?

"He's Just Not That Into You," with a star-studded cast including Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson is based on the best-selling book of the same title by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. While the book was more of a guide, the movie applies the lessons in the book to real life (as least as real as can be seen on the big screen.) The movie centers on a group of 20 and 30 year olds living in Baltimore and navigating the murky waters of the dating pool.

Chick Lit comes to the big screen! "Confessions of a Shopaholic" by Sophie Kinsella features Isla Fisher taking on the role of Rebecca, a fun-loving young lady with a serious penchant for shopping. Will her past catch up with her as she tries to land her dream job working for her favorite magazine? Also stars the adorable Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack and John Goodman.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton

While much is being made of Abraham Lincon's 200th birthday this month, and rightly so, I thought it would be interesting to examine the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, the much maligned and possibly misunderstood wife of President Lincoln. While there have been several biographies published about Mrs. Lincoln, some damning and some sympathetic, I chose the most recently published version to start with.

Mary Todd was born into a highly respected and politically connected family in Lexington, Kentucky. While both she and her future husband lost their mothers at a tender age, Mary's new stepmother went on to give birth to eight additonal children, when, added to Mary and her 5 siblings, made for a very large and disjointed family. When Mary, as a young woman, had the opportunity to escape the household to stay with her married sister in Springfield, Illinois, she jumped at the chance.

Mary took Springfield by storm. Highly educated and politically knowledgeable, her lively personality soon catapulted her to the top of Springfield society. Before long, she was introduced to another up and coming resident, Abraham Lincoln. The courtship of the Lincolns was long and tumultuous, even breaking apart for a brief while before ultimately ending in their marriage in 1842. As a young bride, Mary learned to pinch pennies, made her own clothes and supported her husband in every way - encouraging him to take more care with his appearance, making sure he did not skip meals, and even bringing him out of his well-known melancholy spells.

As Mary stands by her man, Lincoln vascillates between running his law practice and political activities, not winning very often, but becoming more and more well know with each foray. Despite being defeated in the 1858 Senate election, Lincoln, as we all know, was elected president 2 years later, and the family made the move to Washington D.C. Here, Mary, despite finally making it to the top, was shunned by Washington society and became a favorite target of journalists. Weathering this while helping her husband cope with the Civil War while several of her family members fought against the Union was exhausting for Mary; when the war ended and Lincoln was reelected, both of them were looking forward to the future. Mary's dreams of a long and enriched life with her husband were shattered when Lincoln was assassinated, an event that haunted Mary for the rest of her tragic life.

If you would like to gain further insight into this tragic figure, as well as learn more about President Lincoln via his wife's role in his successes, this is a great place to start. Catherine Clinton's interpretation is timely and well-researched, and provides a balanced look at a woman who balanced her own ambitions with her family's needs, suffered great losses, and never quite recovered from the deaths of her husband and children.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Is there anyone out there who does not know this story? A classic romance, full of wit, social satire, as well as memorable characters and dialogue, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen remains one of the most beloved novels of all time. The timelessness of this work is evident not only in the number of movies it has inspired (I'll take the Colin Firth Mr. Darcy any day,) but also additional novels involving many of the characters from the original story.

For those of you who love the story, here are some of the additional novels that might be of interest to you:

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough. Did you ever wonder what ever happened to Mary, the most serious of the Bennet sisters? Here is the rest of her story, beginning twenty years after the close of Pride and Prejudice. Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds, imagines a very different life for Mary than what many of us would expect.

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?

Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe. Lydia's story picks up with her heading to Brighton with the Forsters prior to running off with George Wickham. Do she and Wickham live happily ever after, or does Lydia face the consequences of her impetuous and selfish actions? Will Lydia ever grow up?

Letters from Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins. Elizabeth is married and settled into her new home at Pemberley estate. Can she adjust to being the grande dame of her husband's familial home while maintaining her sense of self? Her letters to her sister Jane will tell the tale.

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy and Elizabeth by Linda Berdoll. What does life have in store for the Darcy's following their marriage? This is author Berdoll's take on Elizabeth and Darcy's marital bliss. These should be read in order, starting with Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.

Pride and Prescience, or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris. This mystery samples sorcery, murder and general mayhem as Elizabeth and Darcy turn super sleuths to solve a mystery at Netherfield. This is the first in a series of Austen-related mysteries, all by the same author.

Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen. Pride and Prejudice repackaged. Rather than being set in a rural English village, the story takes place in Boca Raton, Florida. Instead of young marriageable sisters, the characters are elderly Jewish widows. Find out what other P&P similarities abound in this fun-loving book.

Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan. When Jasmin, a well-known columnist for a women's magazine, is cast as Elizabeth Bennet in a charity event's staging of Pride and Prejudice, she has no idea that it will trigger an general implosion of her life. Lucky for her, hunky Hollywood hotshot, Harry Noble is playing Darcy. Romantic and funny.

Pemberley, or, Pride and Prejudice Continued and An Unequal Marriage, or, Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later by Emma Tennant. The first book, Pemberley, is set one year into the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy. The follow-up, twenty years later, follows the trials and tribulations of the Darcy's and their children.

Presumption by Julia Barrett. This tale follows Fiztwilliam Darcy's younger sister Georgianna, as she must choose between two men - one in the military, the other an architect.

All of these books can be found at the New Lenox Library, and are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Austen-related materials. If you are interested in reading further, please stop by the Reference Desk and let us know how we can help.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen

As a basically naive person, the books of Carl Hiaasen completely opened up a whole new world for me - the wheeling and dealing of politicians, the under-the-table agreements of powerful entities, and the manipulation of facts for personal gain. Really, I had no idea. The fact that he makes it entertaining to boot is a testament to his storytelling abilities and bizarre sense of satirical humor.

In this particular book, our hero, Twilly Spree, pursues a litterbug he spots on the highway, with no idea that the man he is terrorizing is a well-connected but clueless lobbyist who will lead him into a complicated game involving the governor of Florida, the potential destruction of a secluded island paradise, and the love of a good woman and her dog. As Twilly continues to creatively teach the man, Palmer Stoat, a lesson (don't be a pig,) he finds himself becoming the target of a hitman himself. Where else can you find a book with impeccably groomed Barbie dolls, a prostitute who will only sleep with registered Republicans and a hermit ex-governor with nothing to lose?

Carl Hiaasen has a gift for creating memorable characters - and this book is no exception. His bad guys are typically super-sleazy, but with character quirks that gives them a vulnerability not usually associated with unscrupulous businessmen, crooked politicians, or unethical environmentalists. His good guys are equally outrageous, yet still totally lovable much of the time. Hiaasen's stories take place in his native Florida, where his love for the land shines through and he gets his point across by channeling his anger into his wit and humor. While his books are enjoyable to read, they are not for the sqeamish - many characters perish in rather unorthodox ways, there is usually a serious level of sexuality in his adult fiction novels, as well as plenty of salty language throughout the book - take a chance and give him a try! To learn more about this author, visit his website:

If you like Carl Hiaasen's books, here are a few others that may appeal to you:

Hammerhead Ranch Motel by Tim Dorsey. Follow the hijinks of Serge Storms, a lover of all things Florida and a serial killer who has stopped taking his medication. He wants "his" money back and will stop at nothing to get it in this deranged but funny tale.

Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard. U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco is dressed to the nines when she stops at a Florida prison to serve a summons, never expecting that she will soon be in the middle of a prison break and locked in the trunk of her own car by inmate Jack Foley. Both escape unharmed, but are destined to meet up again...

Bahamarama by Bob Morris. Zack Chasteen is a former Miami Dolphins football player turned palm tree grower who has spent time in prison for a crime which he did not commit. He makes a beeline for the Bahamas, looking to meet up with his lady friend, as well as seek out revenge on the men who put him in prison.

Whale Season by N.M. Kelby. More Florida weirdness, featuring a poker-playing RV salesman, a strip club owner, and a serial killer who thinks he is Jesus Christ. Dark, demented, but also lots of fun!