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