Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 07/21/11
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In 2002, Miranda Kennedy decides to live in India to become a freelance journalist in that part of the world. She has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and was asked to travel to the Middle East as well as Indonesia. So India worked well for her as a base. Kennedy chooses to move to Delhi and start her adventure there.
 
Her own challenges when dealing with love force her to look at how women in India are dealing with love. Some have arranged marriages, some have love marriages, and some have a variation of both. She makes friends with a number of women, both Hindu and Muslim and is able to observe their lives. Marriage is the biggest event in a daughter’s life. Depending upon the faith of the family, the event may take months, the planning starts the minute a girl is born.
 
This is a fish-out-of-water story. One of the changes, Kennedy experiences is to put aside her independence and ego and hire maids. At first she doesn’t want maids, because she feels she is subjecting the women to this work. However, others convince her that the women need this work to survive. One of her maids is a member of the Dalit (Untouchable) caste and the other is a Brahmin, representatives of the highest and lowest castes. Kennedy finds both of their opinions valid and learns much about India and its people from them.
 
Some reviews have suggested this book as a read-alike for Eat, Pray, Love. Although there is a lot to learn about love and relationships in India in this book, it is more a memoir of the author's life living and working in a new country. Everything from purchasing groceries and riding the overcrowded buses and trains is included. As a Westerner you can see yourself making the same mistakes that Kennedy makes.
 
The story of a young woman moving to a different culture and seeing herself in the eyes of young women everywhere, who all are looking for a  love to share, a supportive family, and a place to call home. How each culture manages this and the opportunities it presents make this an interesting read. 
Nonfiction
Posted by Pam I am on 07/19/11
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State of Wonder is an epic journey into the remote Amazon jungle filled with mystery, deception, and peril.  Ann Patchett, award-winning author of Bel Canto writes beautifully and her descriptions of the jungle transport the reader right into exotic and terrifying Brazil. 
 
Marina Singh is a 42-year old medical researcher working for a Vogel Pharmaceutical in Minnesota.  Vogel is on the verge of releasing a revolutionary drug that extends a woman's fertility into old age.   The drug is being researched and developed by recluse, Dr. Annick Swenson, in the far reaches of the Brazilian jungle.  Swenson lives among the Lakashi tribe where she studies them eating the bark of an indigenous tree and astonishingly are able to get pregnant well into old age.  The book opens with Marina receiving the devestating news from Dr. Swenson that her colleague, Anders Eckman  has died of a fever.  Eckman had been sent by Vogel to monitor the drug development and to urge Dr. Swenson to ready the drug for release.  Abruptly, Marina is sent to Brazil to find out what happened to Eckman and to bring the drug to market.  At the same time, Eckman's wife believes that her husband is not dead and persuades Marina to find out what happened to him.  Marina then begins her strange odyssey into the Amazon jungle and is faced with insects, snakes, and much more.  The New York Times Sunday Book Review writes, " It’s a task straight out of classical mythology: bring back the head of the Gorgon, the Golden Fleece, or, in Marina’s case, the potion conferring everlasting fertility and the dead husband’s watch. As in the myths, she must be ready to outwit tyrants, behead monsters, charm cannibal tribes"
 
The pacing and descriptive prose make the reader feel like you are living in the jungle and practically swatting away the insects yourself.  This book would be a great book for a book discussion as it brings up issues such ethics of science, personal discovery and redemption.  The writing is rich and vivid and engages the reader on every page. 
Posted by mingh on 07/18/11
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This in-depth book takes a look at the lives of the Churchills from the 19th century through the 20th. Its main focus is Winston Churchill's family and his cousin the Duke of Marlborough. The first chapter gives us a little back ground into the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill and his beloved wife Sarah. But true love matches in the Churchill line are few and far between.
 
Winston Churchill's mother was an American heiress who fell in love with Sir Randolph while visiting England. They cared for each other even through Sir Randolph's very difficult brain fever as a result of syphilis. Winston and his brother Jack also made happy love matches. They were the exception. Even their children couldn't find true love.
 
The saddest are the Dukes of Marlborough. Saddled with keeping up Blenheim Palace this bunch of rogues first would marry for money. Consuelo Vanderbilt, 18 years old, cried as she walked up the aisle to marry the Duke of Marlborough. Her mother wanted her to marry a titled man so as to show off  Mrs. Astor--who ruled New York at the time. Consuelo gave the Duke "an heir and a spare," and was out of the marriage by 23. Her life luckily turned much happier after she left the Churchill family.
 
Lovell also focuses on the Churchills during three wars, the Boer War, WWI, and WWII. Winston Churchill's father, Randolph was involved with the Boer war. Winston and Jack's involvement in WWI was difficult for the family especially when Winston was charged with the responsibility of the failure at Gallipoli. Of course, Winston also dominates the WWII years. By this time, both his and Jack's sons are in the war too.
 
An interesting look at the background and loves of one of the greatest men of the 20th century, Winston Churchill. When reading about the lives of the Dukes or Marlborough, you can understand why Winston Churchill turned down a dukedom. He didn't  want to saddle his children with the burden. He saw what it did to his cousins.
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/15/11
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Richard Kilmer is a journalist who thinks he might be going crazy.  He has a good career, a loving girlfriend he wants to propose to, and his health.  But an innocent trip to upstate New York to meet Jennifer's parents becomes a living nightmare for Kilmer. 
 
His nightmare begins with a car crash that has Kilmer waking up to a perplexing state of events.  Jennifer cannot be found at the scene of the accident.  Furthermore,  it appears that Jennifer never existed.  All traces of her have vanished.  Friends have no recollection of her ever being with Kilmer.   Desperate, he publishes a story depicting his plight and becomes a national punch line. 
 
Kilmer finds nothing humorous in his situation.  As he backtracks on his recent past, he realizes that he remembers things that appear to have never taken place and has forgotten those that have.  Who can he trust if he cannot trust himself?
 
Readers have learned to trust that Rosenfelt will supply them with a story that is gripping and thought provoking.  Reading this book is like driving on Mulholland Drive in L.A.  There is an abundance of twists and turns to make the ride interesting and memorable. 
 
Posted by cclapper on 07/15/11
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Early and intense love tangled up in two lives: Judith Whitman's parents separated and at seventeen she moves to live with her Dad in Nebraska.  Willy Blunt was born in Nebraska and has no plans to be anywhere else.  What builds between them will last as long as they live.
 
There is much here, and this story has been drawing some favorable attention.  Some beautiful writing that eloquently describes very human situations.
 
Know what's great about book discussions?
 
The discussions.
 
You can definitely respond to reviews in newspapers or magazines, or fire off a comment to Oprah's web site.  And your thoughts might get published, and possibly even responded to.  But probably not.
 
Or... you can come to one of the Book Discussion Groups that we have here at the Library, or to a group that you and some of your friends have organized in your neighborhood.  Those are great!  You will definitely be heard, and you can exchange great thoughts with other cool people who always have interesting things to say about the work on the table.
 
The only drawback is that they usually cover one work at a time.
 
A blog like this, however, is available any time, any day.  Read these notes, respond, and have your response read by anyone who happens through any time in the future.  Then they can leave their thoughts, and we can all read and respond-
 
A forever discussion.  Right here on your screen.  Any of us can drop in in our jammies- or proper business attire, for you at-work entrepreneurs.  The conversation goes on and on.
 
Why do I mention this here?
 
Because I could really use some help with this book. 
 
I recognize the skill of the writing and the depth of the characters.  A very clear image of a complex relationship.  But I don't know what Tom McNeal hopes I will take away when I close the cover.
 
Have you read this book?  I would really like to hear what you think.   Just go here:
 
 
to respond to this post.  Every one of our blog entries has a similar page- and we all want the hear your responses.  Really.
 
But first give me a hand with this novel.  What did you think?  What sticks with you?  Talk to me.
love, Willy Blunt
Posted by Ultra Violet on 07/13/11
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Dr. Jennifer White had a stellar career as a hand surgeon until early onset dementia forced her into retirement. Her best friend, who lives only a few doors down, is murdered and Dr. White is a prime suspect. There is no evidence of forced entry or struggle and the victim is missing fingers from one hand. There were expertly removed, even Dr. White commends the work when she is shown the pictures. However, she keeps forgetting that Amanda was killed, as she keeps forgetting everything. Dr. White's son and daughter are alternately a support and an annoyance to her as they struggle with losing their mother and their own neuroses. The entire book is told from the point of view of Dr. White and it is painful and frightening to get inside the head of someone in the situation of slipping away. It is especially hard for Dr. White because she has always been such a powerful woman. If one has gone through the despair of witnessing a loved-one with dementia, this book will be difficult to read, but cathartic as well. LaPlante has achieved something very special in that she has written a work of literary fiction that is also an exciting thriller as the murder investigation unfolds.
Posted by Uncle Will on 07/07/11
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Make no mistake, this book is not a true mystery by definition.  There really isn't a dead body.  New to the AHML collection, but first published in 1952, this book has been resurrected under the category of "hard-boiled noir."   It is short, not sweet, and packs a punch.  There is a plethora of low-life characters with Willa Ree as their poster boy.
 
Given a female name at birth, Ree is a immoral hobo who descends upon a virtueless oil town in Texas like a sweeping vulture.  It turns out that the town's mayor is looking for a man with Ree's talents to become police chief.  One of Ree's talents is that he is unscrupulous and mercenary.  While hired under the guise of defender of law and order, Ree establishes his goal of robbing the town blind and splitting before being caught and convicted.
 
What is fascinating about this book is that the tale is timeless.  Trains still run.  Towns are still corrupt.  Men prey upon the weak.  Woman are still used and spit out.  Politicians are corrupt.  Bullies prevail. 
 
Davis' novella is not dated.  There are no descriptions of old cars, clothing, or any other telltale signs of fiction created over 50 years ago.  It simply reads like "a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist."  
Posted by cclapper on 07/05/11
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Everyday Modern England  --  with magic? Suppose you were a probationary constable hoping to become something interesting...like a murder detective for example.  Too bad it looks like you're headed to the Case Progression Unit (which means: Paperwork Central).  Fortunately you've got a fierce sense of humor.  And you'll need that humor 'cause the girl you're really hot for is probationary, too- and actually headed to the murder detective squad.  Then the two of you wind up minding a murder scene late one bitter night, and while she runs for hot coffee you stumble across a significant witness to the crime.  A knowledgeable eyewitness.  Who happens to be a ghost.
 
Great.  Who's going to believe you?
 
Or worse: what if someone does believe you?
 
Attitude, wit and a whole new take on the supernatural- this the first in a new series by Ben Aaronovitch, and the second is already on the way: Moon Over Soho (coming soon to a Library near you!)  This narrator has got real character.
 
Nancy Pearl says it's "something special".
 
"Fresh, original, and a wonderful read.  I loved it."  writes Charlaine Harris.
 
And Diana Gabaldon thinks it's "...a hilarious, keenly imagined caper."
 
Names to conjure with!
Posted by mingh on 07/03/11
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Subtitled, the gilded age crime that scandalized a city & sparked the tabloid wars, Murder of the Century takes place in 1897 when body parts are found scattered in various locations throughout New York. What makes this interesting is this is the start of the tabloid wars in New York. Although William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer had been trying to outdo each other for a few years, it was this murder that really ratcheted up the ante.

Both the Journal and the Herald offered reward money for information leading to the identity of the body (they put the pieces together without the head which was never found). Hearst pushed the Journal to publish more and more about every little clue. Even though some of the clues clearly had nothing to do with the murder, if they had their own sordid story, Hearst went with it. Pulitzer also tried to be first to publish the information.

The solving of the murder is here from the poor detectives who had to do their job under the watchful and following eyes of the reporters, to the courtroom antics, and the viewings at the morgue. Every day for months, people were allowed to come down to the morgue to view the body and make a guess as to whom it belonged.

The murder is solved and actually quite quickly once they get a vital clue. However, the New York papers were never the same. The largest typeface, traditionally held only for declarations of war, appeared for the most sordid stories  for morning and evening reading. And in color!

This isn’t an in-depth view of yellow journalism but how one New York murder changed the way newspapers delivered the news.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 06/29/11
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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in the 1640's was primitive, rugged, yet beautiful place.  Inhabited by the Wampanoag Indian tribes, the island was rich with vegetation and wildlife, the ocean rich with fish and crab.  This is the place chosen by a ragtag group of Puritan English pioneers to establish a settlement in order to escape the cruel treatment of the rigid, Calvinistic British society on the mainland.
 
The voice of Caleb's Crossing is that of young Bethia Mayfield, whose father was Great Harbor's minister.  Bethia is a very bright, curious girl, longing for the education that is denied her because of her sex.  So she eavesdrops on her dull brother's Latin, Greek and Hebrew lessons, soaking up the new languages like a sponge.  Her free spirit presses her to explore the beautiful island that is her home, much against the strict dictates of a Calvinistic upbringing that demands obedience and domestic subservience from their womenfolk.  Through her wanderings, Bethia meets Caleb, an Indian boy her age, and the son of the Chieftan.  Bethia teaches Caleb to speak and read her language.  He in turn teaches her how to live off the land, gathering berries and herbs, and spear fish from the ocean's shore. She soon becomes fluent in his language.  They become the best of friends.
 
Minister Mayfield takes it upon himself the job of educating and converting the local Indians, thus incurring the wrath of the Shaman, Caleb's uncle.  He lands the big prize by taking Caleb into his home to tutor him in the classic languages in preparation for his formal education at Harvard University.  The opposing forces of the Calvinist minister and the Wampanoag shaman collide as tragedy and heartbreak follow celebrations and successes.
 
Caleb's Crossing is Geraldine Brooks at her best, weaving an beautiful, vivid story from a tiny shred of historical fact.  Brooks actually recently moved to Martha's Vineyard where she came across  a map made by the Wampanoag people that marked the birthplace of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  Not much is known about Caleb's short but remarkable life.  But that is just the hook that Brooks needed to immerse herself in the history of this Indian tribe and Martha's Vineyard, to create another evocative and absorbing historical novel. 
Want recommendations on what to read next? Email advisory@ahml.info and we will be happy to assist you in finding a great book to read.
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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