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What We Are Reading Now. . .

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
 I have been a fan of the murder mystery since, at a tender age, I first discovered Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe. You see, I was an voracious reader and my parents allowed me to read these classic series. To this day, I find mysteries highly entertaining.

When I looked at my list of books (yes, I do keep a list of everything I have read), I realized that I have gone into “Summer Reading” mode and have begun to read mysteries. It helps that my favorite authors have written new books this Spring.

Murder in the Palais Royal by Cara Black is set in Paris of the 1990s  and features Aimée Leduc, owner of a detective agency specializing in corporate security.
First in the series: Murder in the Marias
 

Drawing Conclusions by Dona Leon is set in Venice and features Commisario Guido Brunetti along with Sergente Vianello and the well-connected Signorina Elettra.
First in the series: Death at La Fenice

Night Rounds by Helene Tursten is set in Goteborg, Sweden and features Irene Huss, a detective inspector in the Violent Crimes Unit.
First in the series: Detective Inspector Huss

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear set in London during the 1920s and 1930s and features the clever Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator.
First in the series: Maisie Dobbs

Death of Yesterday by M.C. Beaton is set in Lochdubh, Scotland and features the red- haired, unambitious Hamish Macbeth.
First in the series: Death of a Gossip
(Another series and just as much fun: Agatha Raisin, a London advertising retiree living in the Cotswolds, England. First in the series: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death)

Midnight at Marble Arch by Anne Perry is set in Vicorian London and features Policeman Thomas and Charlotte Pitt and the elegant Lady Vespasia. First in the series: The Cater Street Hangman (Another series by Anne Perry: again, set in Victorian London features William Monk police inspector, later a private detective and the feisty Hester.First in the Series: The Face of a Stranger

The Woman who Wouldn’t Die by Colin Cotterrill is set in 1970s Laos and features the wonderful Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 70-something national coroner and shaman, Nurse Dtui, and Geung, who assist him in the morgue.
First in the series: The Coroner’s Lunch

The Bookseller by Mark Pryoris set in modern day Paris and features Hugo Marston the head of security at the US embassy in Paris. This is the first in what I hope will be a long series.
Next in the series: The Crypt Thief

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths is set on the saltmarsh near Norfolk, England and features Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, and Harry Nelson, a detective chief inspector. A library customer recommended this series. She said she could not put these down. First in the series: The Crossing Places

For those you who prefer something of the non-mystery variety….

Requiem by Frances Itani

In 1942 the government removed Bin Okuma’s family from their home on British Columbia’s west coast and forced them into internment camps. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone”’ they formed makeshift communities. Fifty years later, Bin embarks on an unforgettable journey into his past. He travels across the country to find the biological father who made a fateful decision that nearly destroyed the family.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Stoneyville is a small town on the coast of Ireland where all the families know each other. When Chicky decides to take an old decaying mansion, Stone House, and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, the town thinks she is crazy. She is helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the place) and her niece Orla (a whiz at business). Finally the first week of paying guests arrive.
 

The Supremes at Earls All-You Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
Meet Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is home away from home for this inseparable Plainview, Indiana, trio. Dubbed The Supremes by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they weather life’s storms together for the next four decades.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown as soon as they could. Jim, a corporate lawyer, has belittled his big-hearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan, urgently calls them home. Her son is in a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help.
 
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
“What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she? Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best. “– Provided by publisher.

Ah…. a glass of Iced Tea or Lemonade and a good mystery or any other good book!
Happy Reading!
Peggy @ Woods Branch

posted by mak at 1:55 PM

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No author evokes working class Boston more than Dennis Lehane. His thoughts on the tragic events of the Boston marathon appear in the New York Times today, in the op-ed piece “Messing with the Wrong City.”

Lehane’s books can be taut, suspenseful entertainment, yes, but so much more. The characters are complex and ambiguous and the depiction of Boston seems to come straight from the heart. In the words of critic Pam Lambert, they have “a sense of place as palpable as the pungent tang of garlic in the North End air.” Several of his books have been made into terrific movies as well, including Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone. Lehane’s two most recent books are a slight departure in genre and take place in a Boston of the past.  Live by Night is set during Prohibition, and is nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel this year.  It follows The Given Day, in which the Boston Police Strike as well as the Molasses Disaster of 1919 are brought vividly to life.  All are recommended.  The library has many of Lehane’s books in audio and ebook as well as good old paper.

posted by pb at 2:48 PM

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

 Most Wednesday evenings, I can be found sitting at the Reference Desk of our Central Branch, reviewing the catalog records of the latest batch of new books. Invariably, each cart of new books holds at least a few items to fuel one of my grandest passions: cooking.  At any given time, my list of checked-out books contains two to five cookbooks, and often several more.  I drool over the photography, read the recipes with an almost unseemly zeal, and dot the pages with sticky-notes, compiling a “To Make” list that, should I ever find the time to follow through, would feed an army of gourmands for decades.  The following list represents some of my most recent obsessions.

French Feasts: 299 traditional recipes for family meals & gatherings, by Stéphane Reynaud.If I weren’t already a confirmed Francophile, this book of Gallic delights certainly would have transformed me.  It combines gorgeously realistic food photography, with marvelously straightforward recipes — most are less than a quarter-page long — and, of course, a suggested wine pairing. In a twist I’ve not seen before, the recipes list the ingredients first, with the measurements provided afterward, allowing you to determine instantly whether or not the dish relies on pantry staples or requires a shopping expedition.  Anecdotes from French butchers, home cooks, restaurateurs, etc., initiate each chapter.  The recipe titles are listed in both French and English, and French phrases are sprinkled liberally throughout the hefty tome.  C’est magnifique!Jerusalem: a cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

This is the newest book by London restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, whose last book, Plenty, has become one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.  Jerusalem, like Plenty, incorporates many of Ottolenghi’s favorite childhood memories and recipes, while also providing some intriguing insight into how the assorted religious and cultural traditions, which coexist so tenuously in the political sphere, merge peacefully in the kitchens of its namesake ancient city.  Both cookbooks rely heavily on ingredients which are not common to Midwestern Americans, and which might be tricky to find, but these are challenges I welcome.Cook this now: 120 easy and delectable dishes you can’t wait to make, by Melissa Clark. If you’ve been pondering experimenting with the seasonal and local cooking trends, but have a busy life and/or a family of picky eaters, this is the cookbook for you!  At least half a dozen of Melissa’s uncomplicated recipes have quickly made their way into my standard rotation, and one of those – featuring barley and grated carrots — has become my go-to winter comfort food.  That recipe happens to be almost ridiculously healthy and simple, so much so that I frequently have to remind my inner hedonist that she’s not actually getting away with anything.Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: recipes you can trust, by Ina Garten. I have yet to encounter a cooking aficionado who isn’t utterly charmed by Ina Garten. Her cooking shows offer a peek into her very privileged and enviable lifestyle, but without invoking the backlash that Martha Stewart does.  Ina seems like someone who would sincerely welcome you into her home, simultaneously making you feel like an honored guest and an old friend — even helping with the dishes afterward would be fun! Furthermore, the unabashed mutual adoration between Ina and her husband of forty-some years, Jeffrey, is my favorite love story; no novel author or screenwriter can even come close.  As with all of her previous Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, Foolproof provides you with engaging, simple, and accessible recipes and plans to help you tap into Ina Garten’s beautiful life.Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just noticed that my cart holds a new book by Nigella Lawson which requires my immediate attention… 

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

What We Are Reading Now…

 
 

Tinkers, Paul Harding’s first novel, languished in a desk drawer for nearly three years after being rejected by major publishers. But when a small printing press finally published the book, it took the literary world by storm and won the Pulitzer Prize. What astounded me about this short novel was the author’s otherworldly details and descriptions (so electrifying that I felt like I inhabited another person’s very senses), and his bringing to life the character of Howard, a gentle epileptic man who worked as a tinker in an impoverished New England town. Despite the harsh, cold conditions of life in this novel, Harding’s warm and compassionate writing left me with a feeling of renewal and even joy.

 

Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, takes on the subject of food in Eating Animals, which is part detective story, and part memoir. Although the book involved a tremendous amount of research and objectivity, it reads like a story, with Foer’s unique, experimental, and sometimes humorous style. The author sneaks into a factory farm at night, visits a slaughterhouse, and investigates some of the many stories we use to justify our eating habits. After learning the horrifying truth and refusing to forget and stay in denial about it, Foer acknowledges meeting the gaze of a farmed animal and feeling relief and peace that he no longer eats them: “I simply cannot feel whole when so knowingly, so deliberately, forgetting.” (p. 198)
From its exposure of modern farming methods, to its reports about ecological waste, pollution, and health concerns, this book presents a convincing story that has the power to wake consumers up, out of a “brutal forgetting.”

 

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

What We Are Reading Now….

 

 

Laura Kasischke spins a web of a teen’s nightmare and the relentless ache that revisits itself over and over again in midlife as a doting wife and mother.  Best friends Diana and Maureen are preening in the girl’s restroom at school when a classmate enters holding a gun and asks the teen girls which one should be killed.  The brunette would urge her schoolmate to kill her and not her friend.  Beautiful blonde Diana can’t feel herself breathing and can only hear the jangling of her bracelet and the screams in the hall.  What happened in that bathroom that started out innocent enough with two girls giggling, chatting and wasting time would affect Diana for the rest of her life.  The novel reads like a chilling tale of a school shooting and the continuous haunting of a heinous act against humanity that threatens our culture today.  This page turner unfolds a template that is all too familiar; just the details change …different name, place, etc. for the next school shooting and the horror that unfolds in another bad deed in a place where it didn’t happen to us.another bad deed in a place where it didn’t happen to us.what we all hope will not happen at all again and again and again.  A film (available on DVD), based on author Laura Kasischke’s novel with director Vadim Perelman’s provocative study of memory, morality, and conscience stars Uma Thurman as the guilt-ridden survivor of a harrowing, Columbine-like high-school shooting.

 

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What We Are Reading Now…

 
 
 

Rick Riordan’s popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (The Lightning Thief and four other books) has given its young readers a new fascination with mythology. Children and adults will be delighted by an anthology published recently by National Geographic.  Donna Jo Napoli’s Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters retells 25 Greek myths, including the stories of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Demeter, Apollo, Hera, Aphrodite, Orion, and Helen.  A professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College and an award-winning author of children’s and teen books, Napoli simply and lyrically describes the adventures of these deities and mortals. Jewel-toned paintings by British artist Christina Balit fill the book, including stunning scenes from the classic tales and a double-page spread of each character. An ALA 2012 Notable Children’s Book, this timeless volume would make a great addition to any family’s library. The New York Times said it best: “This is a book meant to dazzle its readers—and it does.”

 
 

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Monday, December 17, 2012

What we are reading now…

 
Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care
 
 

by Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H.

Don’t let this book title scare you; most doctors are highly skilled and irrefutably ethical. However, Dr. Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a professor of Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health writes in an advisory tone to remind us that medicine is administered by human beings and therefore has elements of error inherent.  Using names of the rich and famous who have been harmed or whose deaths have been caused by doctors having a lack of experience, poor skill level or from using outdated procedures, – it urges every individual of lesser means to do their due diligence when selecting a surgeon and a hospital.

 

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What we are reading now…..

 
 By Anna Reid
Anna Reid in her new history Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 has taken up the challenge of capturing the vast scope of that city’s wartime misery, and along with it the universe of tragedies both civilian and military. In Reid’s able effort, the siege solidifies its repute as a high-water mark for suffering imposed on a great metropolis. No reader of Leningrad can be left with anything less than a complete picture, and a case of exhaustion. It takes an abiding curiosity or some unwavering personal attachment to endure a tale like this. People waste away on these pages, dying for each other, eating each other, writing letters of love and goodbye.  A definitive history of the battle for Leningrad as seen from inside the city. Well done!
 
 
 
 
 

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posted by Peter at 3:08 PM 0 comments

What we are reading now……

 
 

The Postmortal
By Drew Magary

An accidental medical advancement grants humans prolonged life and eternal youth. People can still die of disease, starvation, or violence, but the widespread elongation of life immediately creates an international crisis as never seen before. Russia creates an army of eternally healthy super-soldiers, China seals itself off from the world, and the United States descends into massive class warfare. Extended human life creates all sorts of problems, and leads the economic and social brake down of society.
Insurgent groups rise up against those who can afford the treatment, violent street gangs assault and disfigure the permanently young and terrorist organizations bomb the offices of doctors who perform the procedure. The Postmortal is a frightening and humorous tale of human struggle in a chaotic future.

 

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What We Are Reading Now. . .

 

These days I’ve been reading non-fiction and biography – with a sprinkle of historical fiction. . .

 
 
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan is a fascinating biography for readers interested in the American West from the late 19th through early 20th century. Edward Curtis (1868-1952) was charismatic, a passionate mountaineer, and famous photographer — the Annie Liebowitz of his time. In 1900, he abandoned his lucrative portrait studio to begin a thirty-two year project to capture the Native American nation on film before it disappeared. This incredible adventure narrative tells the story of Curtis’s iconic photographs following him through Indian country as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, Curtis died destitute, divorced, but left an amazing historic legacy.
Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life by Natalie Dykstra is the biography of Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams (1843-1885), American socialite and accomplished amateur photographer. Born into an elite Boston family, Clover married the renowned American historian Henry Adams (a great-grandson and grandson of American presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams). She thrived as an intimate of power brokers in Gilded Age Washington, where she was admired for her wit and taste by luminaries Henry James and H. H. Richardson. Clover possessed, as one friend wrote, “all she wanted, all this world could give.” Yet at the center of her story is a haunting mystery. Why did Clover end her life by drinking a chemical developer she used in her photography darkroom? The key to the mystery lies in Clover’s photographs.
Simon Mawer’s Trapeze is a novel of World War II espionage. Barely out of school and doing her part for the British war effort, Marian Sutro has a quality that makes her stand out—she is a native French speaker. This attracts the attention of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which trains agents to operate in occupied Europe. Drawn into this strange, secret world at age nineteen, she finds herself undergoing commando training, attending a “school for spies,” and ultimately, one autumn night, parachuting into France from an RAF bomber to join the WORDSMITH resistance network. A fascinating blend of fact and fiction, Trapeze is both an old-fashioned adventure story and a modern look at a young woman’s growth into adulthood.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain may help you understand something about yourself or someone you know. According to Cain, American culture has more  and more belonged to the brash, the loud , and the extroverted. Those who talk, network, and collaborate aggressively are seen as the most intelligent and smartest. The quiet and reserved are often viewed as boring and less intelligent. Cain offers advice on relationships, business negotiations and helping introverted children. She explains why introverts and extroverts are the way they are and how people can succeed in a world that doesn’t seem to value them. A powerful book that helps underscore the value that all personality types bring to a successful world.
 
Sandy @ Woods 
 

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Monday, November 05, 2012

“What We Are Reading Now…”

 

We find ourselves living in an increasingly cynical age. The 19th Century was just as unpredicatable, but it was tempered with a hope and optimism much missed now. Here are some titles to immerse you in the exciting days of yesteryear.

With many of the biographies of Charles Dickens in the 500 to 1,000 page range, this is a brief but balanced look at the life of the 19th Century’s most popular novelist. With a movie in the works featuring Ralph Fiennes as Dickens, The World of Charles Dickens makes excellent background reading. There is nothing wrong with this book that a proofreader wouldn’t have helped.

 

Mr. Jefferson’s Women traces the female relationships of Thomas Jefferson: Wives (his own and others), women he loved, women he owned. It reveals Jefferson as a much more human – and disturbing – figure. If you think political attacks and indiscretions are a modern phenomena, think again.

 

In 1872 the Mary Celeste was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. Beds had been slept in, food was on the table, and every aspect of shipboard life appeared normal, but every person who sailed on the ship was missing. In Ghost Ship, the author investigates every possible explanation as if it was a contemporary crime scene, keeping the reader in suspense until the last few pages.

 

The third and final volume in Morris’ mammouth biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel Roosevelt is a book you literally do not want to end. Covering TR’s life from the end of his presidency to his death in 1919, Morris does much to humanize a personality that has become cliched in our minds. Roosevelt’s integrity, humor, ego, and blunders all contribute to illuminate the rough and tumble sportsman whose wife admonished him with, “Theodore, I do wish you would do your bleeding in the bathroom. You’re spoiling every rug in the house.”

James@the library

 

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posted by MLM at 1:16 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What We Are Reading Now…

 

Calling All Downton Abbey Fans! Having trouble waiting for series three and the continuing saga? Here are some good reads to keep you up to snuff.

Tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and wife of Lord Carnarvon who was famous for discovering King Tut’s tomb. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home from the turn of the century through World War I and on in to the 1920′s.

World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

The companion book to the popular British series about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants offers insights into the story and characters as well as background information on British society in the early years of the twentieth century.
Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired ” Upstairs Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey”  by Margaret Powell
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Powell first arrived at the servants’ entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. From the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation.
 
Wait For Me!: Memoirs by the Duchess of Devonishire (nee Deborah Mitford)
In this sparkling memoir, the Duchess (The Pursuit of Laughter) writes about her famously eccentric family and the upper reaches of the British aristocracy with whom she has mingled during her long life (she’ll turn 91 in March). She was related to Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In 1938, she met her future husband, Andrew Cavendish, and socialized with the Kennedy’s. When her husband inherited his title, she became the mistress of Chatsworth. The Devonshire family estate dated back to the time of Henry VIII and contains fabulous treasures, including original Rembrandt paintings. Wait for Me! is a unique portrait of an age of tumult, splendor, and change.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

A profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world in postwar England. In a career that spans World War II, the novel’s narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who is oblivious to the real life that goes on around him — oblivious, for instance, to the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel — namely, Stevens’ own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.
 
The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British by Sarah Lyall
A razor-sharp . . . wickedly insightful, decidedly biased account of everything British. Sarah Lyall moved to London in the mid-1990s and soon became known for amusing and sharp dispatches on her adopted country. Confronted by the eccentricities of these island people (the English husband who never turned on the lights, the legislators who behaved like drunken frat boys, the hedgehog lovers), she set about trying to figure out the British. Part anthropological field study and part memoir, The Anglo Files has already received great acclaim and recognition for the astuteness, humor, and sensitivity with which the author wields her pen.Diana@Central

 

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Every year dozens of books are challenged at libraries, bookstores, and schools across the country.  Most of the time, books are challenged over content and a desire to protect children.  However well-intentioned, these challenges and subsequent banning of materials deny others access to books and information. 

The American Library Association celebrated our freedom to read September 30th – October 6th.  This year marked the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, usually held the last week of September.   The Office of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association receives dozens of reports about attempts to remove books from the shelves every year.  Many more challenges go unreported every year.  The Office compiles list of books that are challenged to promote awareness of censorship at libraries.
The most challenged books of the last decade?  The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling tops the list.  Some of my favorite classics rank among the most challenged, too.  “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.  I am so grateful that I can readily find these titles on my library shelves.  Perhaps we should celebrate our freedom to read all year long.
For more information about Banned and Challenged Books, please visit the American Library Association

Kathleen @ Ewald