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Update your bookmarks, everyone! The Readers’ Blog, now renamed the Bibliofiles, has a new home! You can visit us there for all our new book reviews. But the archive of our older posts will remain at this current URL for your convenience!
May 14th, 2011
Just in time for Valentine’s day comes David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary, an alphabetical series of vignettes about a pair of young lovers from the young adult author of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Apparently, Levithan composes a Valentine’s day story for his friends annually, a tradition that began during an especially dull high school physics class. His entries, ranging from “aberrant” to “zenith” chronicle the fate of a devoted if mismatched pair: the shy, insecure first-person narrator and his gregarious, unconventional girlfriend.
Although the format doesn’t allow for a traditional story arc, Levithan works a surprising amount of detail into his spare graceful prose. We learn of the girlfriend’s drinking problem, a brief infidelity, and the lingering effects of her troubled childhood. The narrator, an introvert, is less fully realized. Yet, readers will find enough here to engage their imaginations and to make them hope that Levithan creates another love story for adults one day soon.
Find The Lover’s Dictionary in our catalog.
February 11th, 2011
Hope you all made it through the blizzard and are safe and warm! We had plenty of people come in to stock up on reading just before the storm hit. I spent some of my time rereading Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. This is a light take on the heavy topic of illegal immigration, and is oddly entertaining and delightful while touching on social issues that really affect all of us.
So did you actually spend some of your time reading? What did you read? Care to share any title suggestions?
Find Into the Beautiful North in our catalog.
February 4th, 2011
Happy New Year! Our list of recommended books for 2010 is now complete. We were happy to add a few wonderful debut books to our list as well as some notable new books by seasoned authors. Here are some of the books published during 2010 that caught our fancy:
Bledsoe, Lucy Jane. The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica
Chevalier, Tracy. Remarkable Creatures
Cronin, Justin. The Passage
Eastland, Sam. Eye of the Red Tsar
Follett, Ken. Fall of Giants
Fortier, Anne. Juliet
Garcia, Cristina. The Lady Matador’s Hotel
Orringer, Julie. The Invisible Bridge
Picard, Nancy. The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Thomson, Keith. Once a Spy
Caldwell, Gail. Let’s Take the Long Way Home
Finkel, David. The Good Soldiers
Gwynne, S. C. Empire of the Summer Moon
Lewis, Michael. The Big Short
Murray, Liz. Breaking Night
Rosenblatt, Roger. Making Toast
Schiff, Stacy. Cleopatra
Simon, Scott. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns
To see the complete list, click here.
January 1st, 2011
As much of a thriller reader as I am, this is my first encounter with James Rollins. He’s most known for the Sigma Force series, but has also written standalone novels. He’s been on my to-read list for a few years now and been recommended to me by many avid readers. I chose a stand-alone for my first Rollins novel: Altar of Eden.
The action is satisfyingly immediate and never lets up. There’s little in the way of character development, but such is the case with most thrillers. In mainstream thrillers we usually know just enough background to have sympathy for the protagonist and to know that the bad guy is evil. Rollins doesn’t disappoint. Dr. Lorna Polk, a young veterinarian working for an animal lab in New Orleans is called in to assist the border patrol in identifying some animals apparently smuggled in and found on a boat that has crashed in the swampy south Louisiana coast. As they discover that these animals are not what they appear to be, the bad guys are hot on their trail trying to destroy not only the animals, but anyone who has seen them.
This novel is reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s books in many ways–the sort of fantastic plot that he makes believable, the mile-a-minute action, and the surprises. Fans of fast-paced thrillers will enjoy Rollins.
Find Altar of Eden in our catalog.
November 19th, 2010
More a series of linked stories than a novel, Binchy’s Whitethorn Woods provides us with character sketches and enticing stories of a series of local inhabitants, each of whom will be in favor of or opposed to the new highways slated to be built through the Whitethorn Woods near the tiny town of Rossmore. Complicating what could be a simple decision about building the road is the fact that there is a famous religious shrine in the woods, where people near and far come to pray and ask for miracles. The road will likely detroy the peace of the woods and the shrine.
Just when Binchy has lulled the reader into the comfort of a familiar type, she breaks out the surprise of a character who has snapped, who has turned out to be totally unreliable, or who has found a wily way around a problem.
Whitethorn Woods is recommended for those who appreciate character studies and gentle reads.
Find Whitethorn Woods in our catalog.
November 2nd, 2010
Can you stand yet another paranormal vampire series? Some readers gobble up every paranormal series that comes along, and there are so many of them coming out that I can’t read them all. This one got my attention because it features a librarian turned vampire. Jane Jameson lost her job the same day as she was turned into a vampire. Jane does not like change, though, and finds it difficult getting into the vampire social scene while maintaining her friendships with humans. Meanwhile, Jane’s best friend Zeb is using Jane as a scientific subject to see just how much punishment her vampire body can take and her deceased aunt is haunting her farm house.
As you may have guessed, this is not a serious book. It’s vampire chicklit with a romantic interest. The style is similar to MaryJanice Davidson which puts it on the very light side of paranormal literature.
October 26th, 2010
It’s a smallish cart of books sitting in the office today, but it’s packed full of great reads. You’ll find these new books in the lobby where we showcase our most recent acquisitions:
Levinson, David T. Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins 361.37 L665
This is a book about volunteering and making a real difference. According to Ben Goldhirsh, cofounder and CEO of GOOD, “David T. Levinson’s book is a must-read for people who want to learn to not only empower themselves to do good, but others as well.”
Levy, Joel. The Secret Societies Bible 366 L668
“Discover the hidden truths behind the world’s most mysterious organizations with this comprehensive guide to secret societies….this in-depth reference book explains the history, beliefs and secret rituals of some of the most powerful covert organizations ever to have existed.” –Publisher
Berenbaum, May R. The Earwig’s Tail 595.7 B488e
“Besides possessing a wry humor, Berenbaum knows everything about insects. Who would have thought insects could be so entertaining? A definite must-read for fans of user-friendly popular science.” –David Pitt, The Washington Post
Buckley, Peter. The Rough Guide to the iPhone 621.38456 Ip64bu4
The Rough Guide, best known for their travel series comes to the rescue of iPhone owners giving them tips and app recommendations so they can make full use of their devices. This edition is updated for iPhone iOS4. –Me
Danticat, Edwidge. Create Dangerously B D193c
“In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on arts and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis.” –Publisher
Borman, Tracy. Elizabeth’s Women 942.055 El43b
The subtitle says it all: “Friends, rivals and foes who shaped the virgin queen”
Childs, Laura. Fiber & Brimstone MYS
Laura Childs writes what are known as “cozy mysteries”. Without a lot of graphic violence, they’re gentle stories. This one features a halloween theme and takes place in New Orleans. Midwest Book Review says it’s “Delightful…fascinating.”
Rock, Judith. The Rhetoric of Death MYS
“Ms. Rock takes you back to fascinating and dangerous seventeenth-century Paris so well that I suspect her of being a time-traveler who’s been there.” –Ariana Franklin, author, Mistress of the Art of Death
Acosta, Marta. Haunted Honeymoon F Acosta
This is Marta Acosta’s fourth book about Milagro de Los Santos and the vampire community with which she becomes embroiled. These books are sassy and fun. You’ll want to start at the beginning with Happy Hour at Casa Dracula –Me
Mccabe, Patrick. The Stray Sod Country F McCabe
“This novel is a devil’s-eye view of a lost era, a sojourn to the dark side of our past, one we may not have come back from. With echos of Peyton Place and Fellini’s Amarcord, and with a sinister narrator at its heart, this is at once a story of a small town with its secrets, fears, friendships, and betrayals–and a sweeping theatrical extravagance from one of the finest writers of his generation.” –Publisher
October 24th, 2010
Spoto first came to my attention as the biographer of Audrey Hepburn (Enchantment). I appreciated his balanced treatment of Hepburn along with his insights. When I saw he had completed a biography of Kelly, I immediately put it on my to-read list.
In High Society, Spoto focuses mainly on Kelly’s few Hollywood years. He painstakingly dispels many myths and rumors about her early life and offers behind-the-scenes tales of Grace and her relationships with her directors and her co-stars. He also portrays her as a rebel against the studio system who chose many of her own roles, even when the studio had other ideas.
Unfortunately, Spoto spends much more time on Kelly’s various films and love affairs than he does on the second half of her life as a wife, a mother, and patron of the arts in Monaco and France. It seems that the time of her life spent in Monaco would be even more fascinating than her early life. Still, given her status and her family’s wish for privacy and control of information that it’s probably more difficult to write much of her later life other than the speculation already served up in European tabloids. There’s not much groundbreaking material here, but if you’re a Kelly fan, you’ll find it an entertaining read.
Find High Society in our catalog.
October 23rd, 2010
We’re excited to announce our new book club kits for fall. We’ve selected a variety of titles for your reading groups to enjoy this year including four novels and two nonfiction titles. We own at least 10 copies of each title and have put together a kit of background information and discussion questions for each. The books and the kits may be checked out for 28 days. Here are the new titles:
Bender, Amy. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
A young girl discovers she can taste the emotions of others in the food they prepare for her. While this bit of magic can be advantageous, it also provides difficulties as she learns the secrets adults try to keep from her. According to Publisher’s Weekly: “…this coming-of-age story makes a bittersweet dish, brimming with a zesty, beguiling talent.”
Brennert, Alan. Honolulu
In the early part of the 20th century, a young Korean girl learns to read secretly and wants more than living a sheltered life with her family until she is married off to a groom of her parents’ choosing. When she discovers she can become a picture bride in exotic Hawaii, Regret wastes no time in following her dream and throwing her lot in with the mix of cultures in Hawaii. Library Journal says: “Let’s hope Brennert follows up this second novel with a third and continues to capture this intriguing and little-explored segment of American history in beautifully told stories.”
Gruen, Sara. Ape House
Fans of Gruen (Water for Elephants) have been eagerly awaiting her new novel. Isabel Duncan is a scientist at an ape research center and is devoted to the care and study of each Bonobo at the center. When the building is bombed by animal rights protesters, Isabel is severly injured and the apes are turned loose. Reporter John Thigpen, who is writing a feature on the center, becomes embroiled in the story of a lifetime. Library Journal calls this “A perfectly plotted good read.”
Phillips, Jayne Anne. Lark and Termite
Because Lark’s mother is absent, and her father is serving in the Korean War. Lark and her brother Termite live with their aunt in West Virginia. Their story takes place in two time periods. One in which Termite lands on her aunt’s doorstep, and the other, nine years later, when Termite tries to understand why her mother abandoned her and how limited her small-town opportunities are. Publisher’s Weekly says “From Phillips (Motherkind; Shelter) comes a long-awaited and wonderful coming-of-age tale of grief and survival. ”
Brown, Daniel. The Indifferent Stars Above
Brown reconstructs the tale of the tragic and historic Donner Party using the perspective of one of its members, a young woman newly married and undertaking the migration to California with her husband. Brown uses both modern scientific approaches and historical records to explain the difficulties the party faced and their reasoning as they made their way. Library Journal says “Never melodramatic or maudlin, Brown’s work gracefully balances graphic depictions of extreme privation with humanizing glimpses of the emigrants’ everyday hopes and fears. ”
Egan, Timothy, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the fire that saved America
In 1910, a forest fire burned through three states. In just two days, the fire destroyed multiple towns and killed scores of people. Egan takes a look at the fire’s origins, efforts to fight it, the resulting devastation, and the role politics played in all of it. Library Journal says: “Historians will enjoy Egan’s well-written book, featuring sparkling and dynamic descriptions of the land and people, as a review of Roosevelt’s conservation ideas, while general readers will find his suspenseful account of the fires mesmerizing.”
September 19th, 2010
I finished Gruen’s (Water for Elephants) latest in record time for two reasons. One, I foresee it being extremely popular and didn’t want to keep it from the next reader on the reserve list. Two, it’s a page-turner with a lot of plot twists and I didn’t want to put it down.
It’s a book about several things. It’s about a bonobo communications researcher who finds that her family of bonobos is an excellent substitute for a human family. It’s also about a talented reporter who finds himself onto the story of a lifetime without the backing of his employer who sees reporters as being entirely expendable. It’s about animal rights, about greed, and it’s a commentary on reality tv. It’s also entertaining.
Several reviewers were correct in their assertions that the sections concerned with the bonobos were more interesting than the stories of damaged humans, but I think it can’t be helped. Human-animal communication is a fascinating subject, and Gruen’s bonobos are all-too-human and are better people than many humans who populate the novel. All the human relationships were broken in some way while the bonobos functioned well as a family group.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a book group as a novel with a fascinating plot. I think there’s plenty for discussion groups to explore and it is an absorbing read.
Ape House is the fall selection for One Book, One Highland Park. Activities planned at the library include:
We have lots of copies of Ape House and you’ll want to reserve your copy now!
Find Ape House in our catalog.
September 15th, 2010
We’re gearing up for our exhibit Pride & Passion the African-American Baseball Experience. Opening day is Sunday and we’ve got quite an afternoon lineup so be sure and mark your calendars. For more information and our schedule of events, visit our programs page.
Since we’re focusing on our national pastime, I thought I’d dust off some baseball classics and bring them to your attention:
Abrahams, Peter. The Fan
Dyja, Thomas. Play for a Kingdom
Hamill, Pete. Snow in August
Kinsella, W.P. Shoeless Joe
Klinkowitz, Jerome. Short Season and Other Stories
Kluger, Steve. Last Days of Summer
Lardner, Ring. You Know Me, Al
Malamud, Bernard. The Natural
Plimpton, George. The Curious Case of Sidd Finch
Roth, Philip. The Great American Novel
Shaara, Michael. For Love of the Game
August 17th, 2010