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.