Staff Choices

Posted by mingh on 05/27/11
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McClain uses biographies of Ernest Hemingway and his wives to create this fictional account of his marriage to Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives. Hemingway was making more money as a correspondent in the early part of the 1920's. He was living in Paris with Hadley and later on his first son, when he started to make a name for himself as a writer.
In Paris, the Hemingway's meet Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and others. They go to Pamplona to see the run of the bulls and Hemingway participates in an amateur bullfight. They travel to the south of France and Austria and meet and drink with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. All the usual suspects are in the book and the sense of Paris in the twenties in what Hemingway would later publish posthumously as A Moveable Feast.
But this novel tries to look at the story of Hemingway's early career through the eyes of his first wife. Hadley struggles with a sense of worthlessness as she tries to cheerlead her husband's writing. Once the baby is born, she feels more tied down than ever just as Hemingway's star is starting to rise. She makes a close friend of Pauline Pfeiffer who later betrays her by having an affair with Hemingway.
What was it like to be married to a man who, you and others, think is destined for greatness? What was the time like before that happens? The frustrations and yet,  the joys of a simpler time come through in this novel about Hadley and Ernest. Hemingway remembered Hadley fondly and even dedicated and gave her the royalties for The Sun Also Rises.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/26/11
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Sweden's biggest selling mystery writer is back with the second in her series of English translated novels.
In the first book, The Ice Princess, Erica helps solve a murder mystery and has her account of the investigation published.  It goes on to become a best seller.  Erica is now pregnant and trying to cope with the hottest summer to date in Fjallbacka.  Her boyfriend, Det. Patrik Hedstrom, and father of their expected baby, is trying to find a missing girl while she is still alive.  One girl's body has already been found on what turns out to be the remains of two other girls' skeletons.  The murder victims appear to have been previously buried and their corpses dug up.   
Anna, (Erica's younger sister), and her two children, have left her abusive husband and started divorce proceedings.  Anna has never pressed any criminal charges against her former husband after all the times she was beaten.  This proves to be a big legal mistake.  Her ex is spinning a web of lies in court that do not reflect favorably on Anna as a caring mother.  Anna is trying to move on with her life, but again makes the wrong choice in male companionship -  to Erika's dismay.
Patrik's police team are all trying, in their own quirky ways, to cope with the pressure of finding the missing girl in time and solve the murder mystery that appears to be both serial and predated back to the '70's. 
Fjallbacka is a small town with limited resources.  A five-man police force, that is comprised of a professional golfer wannabe, a publicity-seeking Chief, a lazy brown-noser, and an inexperienced over-achiever is not the supporting cast that Patrik would have chosen.  The suspects are a generational family with religious and criminals pasts.  
As is her M.O., Lackberg supplies multiple characters and subplots to her mixture of suspense and storytelling.   Supposedly there are another five books, already published and best sellers in Sweden, that continue this series.  Avid fans should hunker-down for a long ride.  
Posted by Pam I am on 05/24/11
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Ma and five-year old Jack seem to have a typical life together . . .they watch t.v., play word games, read books, tell stories, sing songs.  Except for one huge difference.  Ma and Jack are being held captive together in an 11 foot by 11 foot room where they live day after day.   Ma was kidnapped when she was 19 years old and has been imprisoned in a garden shed for 7 years and she is doing her best to craft a normal life for her son, Jack despite the horrible conditions.  Room is the only world Jack has ever known and when this world suddenly expands for both Ma and Jack they must learn what freedom really means and how to live in the outside world.  Despite the disturbing premise of this book, it is a great book.  The narration is told from Jack's viewpoint and the five year old voice gives the novel a very different and interesting perspective than if it were told from Ma's viewpoint.  This book is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. 
Posted by cclapper on 05/22/11
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Remarkable- A Really Original Gardening Book!  I love gardens and gardening books.  I check out the new titles -particularly the oversize ones- and browse through all the pictures, looking for new ideas.
The text- well... no... not so much.  Sometimes.  Bits and pieces.  But not all of it.
This new book by Stephen Orr is an exception.  The subtitle is "Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening."   And I read it, every page, cover to cover.
Orr highlights some central ideas that are beginning to rewire how we think of gardens- and how we go about constructing and maintaining them.  There is a growing consciousness of how a garden is created: if existing features need to be removed, how will those old materials be disposed of... or re-purposed?  How can we minimize the resources the new garden will require: care, maintenance -and, in particularly, water?  When new materials (including hardscaping) are to be added, where will those materials come from?  How far will they need to be transported? Careful use of all our resources is becoming a prime concern from start to finish. 
Cutting back the demands for water, in particular, is coming to the forefront in every zone, not just in arid regions.  And this new consideration is not so much for xeriscaping, but rather taking a step back, and looking at the larger picture- what is the climate like, here where we are going to garden?  What plants are comfortable and will thrive here, without extensive -and expensive- life support?  Natives, yes, will thrive, but Orr is comfortable bringing in non-natives, as long as they will thrive in the local climate- on their own.  (Still, with careful research on any that might become invasive.)
Orr starts from the top, with the big considerations:
  • What is the purpose of your garden?  Outdoor living?  Entertaining?  Meditation?  Play space?  Producing vegetables (and/or eggs, honey...)  Or cut flowers for the house?
  • Where is your garden?  In the soggy northwest, the arid southwest, in a temperate area that resemble the Mediterranean region?
  • What materials will you use?  A new feature in many new gardens is gravel- which may sound odd, but has many practical qualities.
  • And what about edible gardens?  Even those that produce honey- and eggs, as chickens become common even in larger cities (Berkeley, California, for example!)  And community gardens mean more than just food- they can nourish and educate the young, and bring beauty and a spirit of renovation to neighborhoods that have fallen into economic backwaters.
And the pictures.  Wonderful pictures.  Glimpses of beautiful gardens all across the country.  New York.  Berkeley.  Texas.  Portland.  And, yes, even Chicago.  Fascinating gardens I haven't seen documented in any other publication.  Great new ideas.
Plus wonderful lists of resources: designers, web sites, community groups, books, support organizations, suppliers...
A great deal in a small (and very attractive) package.
Are you into gardening?  Or going green- to save our world and make it an even better place for our children and grandchildren? 
Then check out our Library's new additions!   Like Linda Mulford's cool new blog "Our Voices, Green Choices".   Linda shares great resources!
And your Library is sprouting out green all over!  Call and ask about Recycling, and about our Gardening Green events in May and June, and our Reading Green group, discussing Eaarth (really!) in May, and Second Nature in June!
Let's get growing!
Posted by mingh on 05/18/11
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Gabrielle Hamilton is the head chef and owner of the popular New York restaurant Prune. The subtitle of this book is "the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef." Hamilton learned much of her cooking from observing her Mother and Father. Her Mother, a French ballet dancer, had to use all parts of whatever she was cooking to make everything last. Hamilton's Father was an artist and sometime theater producer. But the family of five children never had a lot of money. They tried to live off the land as much as possible and her Father even taught Hamilton how to kill a chicken.
You can read a lot of love and admiration in her stories of her parents when she was young. When Hamilton was 13, her parents divorced and everything seemed to fall apart in her life. So much so, that her parents forgot who was watching the youngest children and left them on their own for four weeks at their rural house. The children had been taught a lot of self-sufficiency. It even gave Hamilton enough confidence to walk to town and present herself as a 16 year old waitress for a local restaurant. This sets up a pattern for her life as she confidently starts to reinvent herself as older and more experienced at many different jobs--almost always in the food industry. The catering chapters alone will make you re-think any catering you are needing or wanting.
This is a memoir more than a foodie book. There are some deeper issues in this book that Hamilton presents than just becoming a chef. There is some bitterness, arguably understandable, considering she was basically abandoned by her family at 13 years old. As she grows older, Hamilton makes some interesting choices in her life, she tries to reconnect with her family, and finds in her travels to Italy that food is what can bring people together.
cooking, memoir
Posted by Ultra Violet on 05/18/11
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Journalist, John Thigpen, is sent to cover a story about bonobos, a primate species that can communicate through sign language. What seems like a routine story gets more complicated when the scientist, Isabel Duncan, is critically injured in a bombing shortly after the interview. Thigpen has become infatuated with the lovely young scientist, and is devastated to learn of her injuries. Worse yet, his story is stolen out from under him by his co-worker and he quits his job in a fit of anger. Seeking consolation from his wife doesn't work out very well since she is suffering from depression because of her failed writing career. Amanda Thigpen wants to have a baby and John has just quit his job. The tension rises between them when Amanda takes a job in LA writing for television. John is reduced to writing for a tabloid just so he can be assured of being assigned to follow the ape story. The apes were taken and sold when the bombers broke into the lab. John and Isabel have to get very creative if they are going to get the bonobos back.
Bonobos are a rare species of great ape that has more in common with humans than any other animal. They are very affectionate, matriarchal, peaceful creatures. They have their own form of communication which scientists have been unable to decipher and yet they can learn to understand and use American Sign Language in addition to being able to understand spoken English and respond in ASL. Ape House is a novel with great deal of research behind it. The human story is completely fiction, but the interactions with the bonobos were taken directly from the author's conversations with the bonobos at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/17/11
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Some books are good on long trips.  Some are better at bedtime.  Others adorn coffee tables with little or nothing more to offer.  A fair share get labeled as good bathroom reads.  This book fits the latter category.
Comprised of about 250 "personal letters," this book is quite clever.  It is reminiscent of the books penned back in the late '70's by Frank Novello writing as Lazlo Toth (The Lazlo Letters, Citizen Lazlo!, and From Bush to Bush).  The author, Ted L. Nancy, is the pseudonym used by comedian Barry Marder. 
Marder was a writer on the award winning "Seinfeld" TV series.  This book's forward was written by Jerry Seinfeld, who for a while was rumored the "true identity" of the author for this series of books. 
Marder's correspondence is referred to as prank letters.  There are a variety of businesses, places, and people pranked.  At times it is hard to determine what's funnier - the initial letters themselves or the actual responses.    
Posted by Auntie Anne. on 05/15/11
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 The body of a viciously beaten woman has washed up on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  The city's detectives readily dismiss the case as another unsolvable murder, assuming that it is just another housemaid killed by her employer.  In a city where the burkas required by conservative Islam keep women  anonymous in life and death as well, this is a common  crime.
But Katya Hijazi, a forensic technician in the coroner's office, is determined to find Leila Nawar's killer.  This is not an easy task, since she must maintain the strict protocol of Islam, never going out unless escorted, nor could she interview or speak to strange men.   With dogged determination, she discovers the woman's identity as that of a provocative and controversial Saudi filmmaker, and with the help of her friend Nayir Sharqi, uncovers the woman's film library which exposes an underworld of prostitution, violence and exploitation.  It appeared as though the young beautiful filmmaker had earned some enemies.
The City of Veils provides the reader with many twists and turns in this mystery based in Saudi Arabia, a country torn between the strict edicts of islam and the lure of the modern world.  Zoe Ferraris weaves a good mystery and gives us a revealing glimpse into life behind the veil.  This is the author's second mystery set in Saudi Arabia, the first of which is Finding Nouf.
Posted by mingh on 05/13/11
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In 2009, Francisco Goldman's wife died of a freak accident at a Mexican beach. Having difficulty accepting his wife Aura's loss, he started to write a fictional story of a character he called, Francisco Goldman. The character Francisco Goldman also loses his wife, Aura, to a freak beach accident on the coast of Mexico. That much we know.
By putting all of this in a fictional context, author Goldman is allowed to explore his feelings both good and bad and to explore the feelings of his wife in the character that he has created. The book does not read like a memoir--it really does read like fiction. And it is helped by it as the author can condense time in the story and allow us to wonder if the other characters are real or compilations. We don't know if the real Aura said that to her Mother. But the fictional one does and can. The story moves along as you jump between times before they met, through their courtship and even after her death.
I don't know if a memoir could have been as profound as what we read as fiction. The author is able to explore relationships and feelings more deeply than if he was having to stick to the facts or the truth as he knew it. Goldman has written both nonfiction and fiction, so he does know the difference. The choice to present his story as fiction makes it a more compelling albeit very sad read.
Grief, Literary
Posted by mingh on 05/13/11
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Harold White has just been received into the exclusive Sherlock Holmes society known as the Baker Street Irregulars. You cannot join the group. You must be nominated by someone already in the group and you must have published about Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle. Outside of the Reception for his induction ceremony, Harold is introduced to the infamous Sherlockian, Alex Cale. Alex has hinted that he has found the lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle.
The next day, when Alex fails to show for his presentation, Harold and others flock to his room to find him dead in the manner of a Sherlock Holmes character. Who might have killed Alex Cale? And was it for the alleged lost diary that he found? Relatives of Conan Doyle hire Harold to try and find out who killed Alex and where is the diary? The search will send him to London, Switzerland and New York.
In the meantime, every other chapter follows the fictional exploits of Arthur Conan Doyle and his good friend Bram Stoker as they try and figure out some murders during their lives. These adventures supposedly make up the time in the lost diary. Is it possible that Conan Doyle destroyed the diary because he did not want it to get into the wrong hands?
This is all part of the fun of The Sherlockian, a great read for mystery lovers and Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.
Want recommendations on what to read next? Email and we will be happy to assist you in finding a great book to read.
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