Monday, December 31, 2007

The Gambler (DVD) 1974 / w/ James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Lauren Hutton, etc.

Loosely adapted to the modern day big screen comes Dostoevsky's personally reflective novel of the same name. Fresh off his stint in The Godfather is James Caan as Axel Freed, a man who can ill afford to lose...much less win. Blessed with an upper-class upbringing, solid teaching job, and serious girlfriend; Freed is none the less a man plunging to his emotional and monetary depths near everyday through various chance endeavors. For every 'win', he suffers countless losses at the expense of money and credibility until ultimately his addiction lands him at the mercy of mafia heavyweights. His life now on the line he must coerce others into misdeeds he himself would shun.

Caan was the right man at the right time for this rather overlooked film acutely portraying one man's abuse of an age-old vice. Freed deserves no sympathy and gets none as his countless efforts to confront the 'disease' fail miserably deepening his depravity, throwing him at the feet of others, and further isolating those who love him. The Gambler has a very raw, edgy 1970's New York City feel similar to movies like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, or Dog Day Afternoon. (DVD GAMBLER)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Last Lessons of Summer / by Margaret Maron

Following her mother's fatal accident 20 years ago, Amy Steadman became sole heir to a lucrative family business. Yet at the moment her life is anything but prosperous. With her grandmother and benefactor at death's door, certain 'aggressive' family members are demanding authorization on potential business interests. Turmoil from extended family is bad enough but her on-the-rocks marriage to husband Ted is only making the situation worse.

Needing some re-evaluation time, Amy decides on a personal vacation to clear her head. So following her grandmother's funeral, Amy takes an indefinite residence at the family country home in North Carolina. It's here she comes across some old archives revealing several long buried secrets about the family's source of wealth; secrets that don't line up to what she's been told. Amy's tranquil holiday soon turns treacherous as certain 'accidents' (perhaps intended to frighten or even harm Amy) start happening. It's all too evident that someone is targeting Amy. But why? Could one of her own family be out to harm her?

Maron is most well-known for her 'Deborah Knott' mysteries about a North Carolina district court judge. But her other writings include several stand-alone novels this one, exhibiting a sort-of 'big city vs. good 'ole boy' contrast, all surrounding female protagonists. The story's themes and motives may seem a little overblown and impractical (family money from toddler story books, Amy as the only heir, relatives she's never met/known about, husband Ted as a virtual non-entity the entire book, etc.) but Maron won't have trouble finding an audience with people wanting a little more umph to a domestic fiction. (MYS MARON)

The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal: More Than 450 Infamous Incidents from the 1600s to the Present [REF] / George Kohn, ed.

A great resource for anyone wanting to know about the infamous and underhanded events throughout American history. From the Salem Witch Trials to Benedict Arnold and all through the twentieth century with McCarthyism and OJ. Simpson. This is a great resource for anyone wanting to know what the Teapot-Dome Scandal or the man who really was Jimmy Hoffa. Recommended for anyone wanting to investigate the darker side of our nation's heritage...and for further reading ask the reference desk about other books involving scandals and conspiracy.

Rats Saw God / by Rob Thomas

Semi-local author Rob Thomas has published several YA novels over the past decade. This, his first, chronicles teenager Steve York at multiple times during high school. Steve's last day of eighth grade is turned on its head when his parents announce their impending divorce ultimately sending his mother and sister to San Diego and him to Houston to live with his repressive (and somewhat despotic) father--"The Astronaut". Facilitating things the best he can amidst unfamiliar surroundings, Steve carves out his new existence; gradually making friends and learning to survive his homelife simultaneously. His saving grace appears in the form of Wanda "Dub" Varner, with whom a steady-crush morphs into love by the end of freshman year. Until its bitter end his junior year, the reader is let in on all the relationship's details through segmented entries describing the 'then' blissful romance and his 'now' emotionally-reduced, drug-addled life after the break-up.

Though Thomas' later books were less well-received, Rats Saw God will find an audience with its drenched-in-sarcasm attitude and gritty realism. The 'then and now' style really fleshes out Steve's personality and relationships; displaying how both compliment each other and play off his actions. Generation X & Y'ers of the 80's/90's period will identify with the book's cultural aspects.

Life Expectancy / by Dean Koontz

Jimmy Tock is a man born on the same night his grandfather dies. Simultaneously as he is brought forth from his mother's womb, his grandfather utters his final words; a prediction for his grandson's life. The prediction is a series of five precisely set dates in the future that offer an ominous warning for the infant Jimmy. The string of prophetic days does not begin until Jimmy is an adult and well on his way to becoming a career pastry chef like his father. The book follows each date as events unfold introducing us along the way to Jimmy's nemesis, Beezo the Clown, who lies at the root of each fateful day.

Life Expectancy is, at most, a 'lighthearted' thriller and too radically far-reaching to sense any real danger despite some severely traumatic incidents which attempt to pique the reader's concern. With the exception of Punchonello-- Beezo's son, all the characters are one-dimensional bores as Koontz fails to flesh out any real-ness amidst the various bizarre episodes. Life Expectancy is quirky and absurd but may attract readers who like "fun" plots.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Water for Elephants / by Sara Gruen

An award-nominated novel by author Sara Gruen, the book is set mostly during the Great Depression with brief, present-day interludes of the protagonist as a geriatric patient. Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob Jankowski who at 23 is days away from an ivy league degree when his parents die in a car accident. Grief-stricken and penniless (his parents entire estate paying his tuition); he literally 'hops' the next train. The locomotive is a circus caravan complete with aerialists, freak shows and an animal menagerie; the latter employing Jacob as a veterinarian.

This book is less about amusements though; focusing instead on the pitiless world of depression-era showbiz. Gruen's tone begins mildly but eases into more sinister territory as Jacob falls desperately in love with Marlena, wife to an evil-hearted ringmaster. Beyond the love triangle is the stark reality of genuine hard times endured by nearly all characters: "red-lighting" of unneeded circus workers, the greed of the management at the expense of food and medicine, and the austere cruelty in beatings doled out to animals who won't perform. Gruen manages to balance the weightier issues through Jacob's eyes as he confronts the human condition with its inevitable paradox; brilliantly interweaving carnality and wickedness with love and harmony. (FIC GRUEN)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Narnians Unite!....or...."The Literature of C.S. Lewis" w/ Professor Timothy Shutt

This audiobook/lecture series/study guide is part of the Modern Scholar series of professor-led courses on various topics in the humanities and social sciences. A valuable tool for continuing education, this series features prominent scholars and real students interacting within an academic setting rendering it an ideal literary aid. Each Modern Scholar "kit" features recorded lectures along with a workbook and study guide allowing you to follow along with each talk.

Professor Timothy Baker Shutt of Kenyon College (MI) is an expert on the literature of C.S. Lewis, particularly his Science Fiction and Fantasy works. His literal and transfigural insight into Lewis' fictional Narnian world really enhances the characters and motifs elucidating each book's relevance within the 6-part series. With the second Narnia movie, 'Prince Caspian', appearing in theaters, this is really a great (and not too hard) read for inquiring minds. Shutt also chronicles important events in Lewis' personal life detailing how certain incidents may ultimately have impacted his literary style.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Network (DVD) 1975 / w/ William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty, et. al.

Ratings for a national TV network soar one night when news anchor Howard Beal (Finch) announces his impending suicide on the air. Pleasantly intrigued network heads give Beal his own show--"Mad Prophet of the Airwaves", on which he raves about television's counterproductive influence on society. Friend and program director Max Schumacher (Holden) attempts to shield Beal (now clearly deranged) from unfeeling executives wishing to further exploit the situation.

William Holden was a man with "voice"; a sort of primal authority extending from his vocal chords. He was a good actor too prompting Hollywood scripts to provide Holden's characters at least one passion-driven monologue per film intended to vocally 'stamp' the movie (think Sunset Blvd, Born Yesterday, Stalag 17, etc.). Here he has like 3 or 4 such rants and yet is almost (though not altogether) overshadowed by Peter Finch's oscar-winning performance of a man driven to fanatical 'revelations' about television's vacuous hold over the masses. Faye Dunaway is the cold-hearted executive willing to sacrifice humanity for higher ratings and only prevented so by Schumacher, an on-the-outs program manager and Beal's longtime friend. In his only scene, Ned Beatty delivers a core truth (worth at least some 'real world' validity) about network television's partnership with corporate enterprise.

Ironic Footnote: (SPOILERS!!!) Howard Beal dies at the end of the movie and Finch himself died from a heart attack only months prior to being awarded a (posthumous) best-actor oscar for 'Network'.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cries in the Drizzle by Yu Hua

This is the first novel written by Yu Hua, who has had two other books published. This one first came out in serial form for a literary journal. The events take place in rural China during the 1970’s, during the last years of the Cultural Revolution. The action focuses on a boy and his family, and his tenuous connection with them. His parents give him away to a childless couple when he is six, and he returns to his family at age twelve, after the death of his foster father. The boy, Sun Guanglin, narrates from the first person, as an adult remembering and recreating what he experienced. His father is a ruthless bully who intimidates his sons and wife, carrying on an affair with a widow and making advances to his daughter in law. Yu Hua conveys Sun’s emotional isolation and despair and we see Sun’s attempts to reach out to others to offset his family’s rejection. The book is especially striking showing how the political situation is felt at the village level. Traditional values are scorned by the party line, yet the condemnations and punishments applied for criminal or immoral actions seem rhetorical as well as harsh. The result is a culture in limbo, with the past erased and the future uncertain.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Freakonomics / by Steven Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner

If the drug trade is so lucrative, why do dealers still live with their moms? What makes certain people watch certain TV shows? How have some companies with smaller budgets and less pedigree been able to top the competition? What accounts for the decrease in the crime rate during the early 1990’s? This book details all this truly relevant information in what’s not-your-everyday economics textbook. ‘Rogue’ economist Steven Leavitt and associate Dubner detail certain societal trends and pop culture phenomenon in things like education, relationships, and elections (the richest candidate doesn't always win).

Freakonomics remained on the bestseller lists for several months and has sold over 3 million copies. This book is an informative leisure read as well as serious book for educational purposes and contains some interesting factoids on life in general. Both authors write for The Economist magazine and have made appearances on several TV talk shows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Dead Father's Club / by Matt Haig

11-year-old Philip Noble has many, many horrible problems. Though for once, at least, being bullied at school is at the bottom of the list. His father’s death in a fatal car "accident” was only three months ago and his Uncle Allen is already making a play for his widowed mother. Angry and helpless, Philip suddenly encounters his father’s apparition who explains his death was no accident and only part of Uncle Allen’s plot to wed Philip’s mom, take over the family business and generally make everything worse. Now Philip must avenge his father's death (by murdering his uncle, duh) in order to free him from a limbo-like existence amidst other murdered fathers in “The Dead Fathers Club”.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime meets Hamlet in this dark comedy/parody full of funny (sort-of) characters and believable circumstances surrounding supernatural events. Serious things like murder, robberies, and death only seem to enhance the humor as Philip applies himself to the task of murdering his uncle while sorting out his own life's details. Like in ‘Nighttime’ (or South Park), childlike innocence reflects badly on adults whose buffoonish behavior allows them little dignity. Yet child protagonist Philip is human too with his own foibles and a conscience that tends not to portray him as an outright hero evidenced when the plot eventually balances the scales without making anyone a victim.

Needful Things / by Stephen King

All is well in the town of Castle Rock until a storm comes bringing with it a strange individual and his curious boutique shop--"Needful Things". The store has something for everyone; in fact, it has just the right thing for anyone. No one entering the shop leaves empty-handed as Leland Gaunt's assortment of items satisfy even the deepest desires; a cherished baseball card, sunglasses worn by Elvis, even beauty tablets all purchased for a convenient price. But sinister motives conceal the shop’s true enterprise as Leland Gaunt is more than he seems and he trades in more than earthly wares. What makes you pick up a book (even really thick ones), read the first page and keep going? Try to pin it down. So, to say King is a master of macabre is almost to neglect his real strength at storytelling; a literary magnetism worthy of Harry Potter. The intangible quality of his characters, emotional intrigue and plot structure seem to make his stories almost addictive. Needful Things is one of those books; one in which it doesn’t matter what genre you like, you just enjoy it. (FIC KING)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Riding in Cars with Boys / by Beverly Donofrio

Adversity is the trial of principle. - Henry Fielding

So it goes with Beverly Donofrio, a bad girl who makes good in this memoir of an early-life crisis. Pregnant at 16, she rode the downward spiral for some time before things finally improved. Here she shamelessly chronicles her life as a high school dropout, parental reject, early bride, wife of a junkie, divorced teenage mom, hippie chick, liberated woman, drug user/dealer, and welfare recipient. Only after a nervous breakdown (of sorts) does she acclimate herself to a better life; growing and learning life's lessons even as her son, Jason, matures with her.

You can't spell memoir without "me" (or moi), an all-too-ironic nuance of this book which practically begins each sentence with "I" or "My" and ends in an angry expletive. With no shortage of attitude Donofrio entertains as she self-evaluates going so far as to infuriate her own (real life) parents at the time of publication. Drew Barrymore stars in the 2001 film adaptation that won several independent film awards.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vision Quest / by Terry Davis

Louden Swain lives ‘over-the-edge’ caring little for rationale or sensibility. A high school wrestler anticipating his career-defining match, he perpetually denies himself, eating just enough to sustain his body while pushing it to (and beyond) its natural limits. Mentally his concentration never wanes from the impending match and opponent Gary Shute. It’s his own battle but he’s never alone with a supportive father and live-in girlfriend not to mention his coach and dedicated teammates.

Before Cris Crutcher made it cool to be a triathlete, Terry Davis wrote Vision Quest. Published in 1979, this was a new kind of YA novel. This is not a sports book as there are no archetypal action sequences or inevitable 'championship' climaxes. Rather it's an intrapersonal soul journey, a story of being not doing. Louden’s focus is the pain, the emotional reflection as he trains the theme rather than the culminating event itself. Like any 'YA' book, it's concentrated on adolescence but doesn't exclude other audiences and would be a great read for anyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rule Number Two by Heidi Squier Kraft

Heidi is a clinical psychologist and writes about her seven month deployment in Iraq in 2007, in Al-Anbar province with the Marines, as part of logistic support services. She had to leave her twin boy and girl at age fifteen months, and describes putting this issue “away”, essentially ignoring it, until the end of her stay. She can’t put away the basic issue and challenge in her work while there, which is to help the soldiers deal with death. Heidi does not discuss the politics of the war, and her attitude in writing and while ministering to the soldiers is simply made up of her empathy and depth of feeling for what they are going through. She tells of one soldier’s trauma of withholding fire on a child throwing what appeared to be an incendiary device, without commenting on whether this situation is typical of one a soldier might face. Ms Kraft does say, however, that An-bar Marines “did not have the same opportunities” to see cheering and waving Iraqis “found in other regions of the country”. When you read the book, her straightforward narrative speaks to you regardless of your politics, and is a testimony to a job well done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ALLDATA Online Database

If you want something done right, don't pay someone else. So for all your car maintenance needs (except the spending part) use ALLDATA, the online car repair manual cataloging every automobile, its parts, peripherals, diagrams and diagnostics. If you're not sure what the problem is, don't worry; this internet database offers troubleshooting solutions and performance rating tips for all vehicles foreign and domestic built since the year 1982.

ALLDATA can be accessed through Moore Library's computer terminals and assistance from the library reference staff is available. This database allows options for printing diagrams and other essential information at $0.10/page.

Less Than Zero / by Brett Easton Ellis

Winter break brings 19-year-old Clay home from his first semester back east. The son of wealthy LA ‘people’, his life and that of his equally over-privileged friends seamlessly yields itself back to the partying, out-on-the-edge days before college. But any joy is lost on a dissolute Clay. Drowning in his own solitary void, a numbness to the high-times is only compounded by the ugly depravity of his once-closest friends.

American Psycho (both book and movie) made Ellis a cult icon but Less Than Zero first acknowledged him as a voice for Generation X. Published in 1985, the novel stirred controversy with its revelation of California’s drug culture and some its most loyal patrons--children of LA’s wealthy upper-crust. Perpetually aware but never surprised, Ellis’ style remains devoid of emotion. Clay’s world is one without hope, without feeling where characters exist below the surface. No action is interpreted and reactions are never personalized as Clay's own reflections remain far from the plot's content focusing instead on distant memories from the past. Despite this, or perhaps even because of it, Clay’s character is still felt by the book’s end.

Ironic Footnote: This book was made into a 1987 movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gaudy Night / by Dorothy Sayers

Female sleuth Harriet Vane stalks a phantom in another Dorothy Sayers mystery showcasing the one and only Lord Peter Wimsey. When an invitation to Oxford's 'gaudy' reunion beckons, a bored and idle Harriet accepts and (with some cajoling) stays on to investigate a series of threatening letters aimed at faculty members. Posing as a research assistant, Harriet retreads her old haunts seeking a culprate capable of such malice. An opportune coincidance soon lands Lord Peter at her side as together they follow the perpetrator's clues ultimately unearthing a dreadful secret lying below the surface all the while.

Lord Peter Wimsey is (in today-speak) an uber-hustler. Never ruffled, he is the definition of composure eliciting a sort of classy elitism all over the place. His only weakness is, of course, Harriet for whom he remains the devoted fool. The book is as much a social novel as it is mystery dissecting personalities while simultaneously perusing crime scenes. Somehow Sayers was a master at this, meshing relational intrigue with CSI-type drama to form an addictive type of character series. This book could be enjoyed by fans of the "cozy" mystery as much as domestic fiction.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Confetti (R) w/ Martin Freeman, et. al.

To boost the sales of their routinely dismal February issue, Confetti magazine will hold a contest to determine the most 'original' wedding. The nationally televised event will award a one-half million dollar house to the winning couple and picture them on February's cover. Of the three competing pairs, one plans a tennis-themed ceremony while another will exchange vows performing a 1940's-style musical number. The third represent a naturist commune and (allowing some legal loopholes) will wed as a fully disrobed man and wife. Tune in to see the constestants scramble to plan their own uniquely original wedding with only three months to prepare.

Mockumentaries have an uncanny knack for revealing the true-to-life quirks of 'normal' situations. This movie with its ribald band of British comedians pokes serious fun at the institution of marriage and its hangers-on. Showing the lengths people go to for a real "wedding experience" (and to win a free house), the largely improv'd footage characterizes the outrageousness of oft to-be-wed couples and other players involved with wedding planning. The satire is dead-on; especially as family feuds erupt amid preparations and wannabe limelight stealers threaten to sabotage the ceremony. Alison Lohman (A&E's Pride and Prejudice) is perfect as another eccentric mother-in-law.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tenderness / by Robert Cormier

Every soul needs tenderness. Something still haunting Lori Cranston as she flees yet another of her mom's abusive boyfriends. Her desire for emotional intimacy now targets Eric Poole, with whom she shares a strange history. Eric needs tenderness also; even with no capacity for feeling. Incarcerated five years for slaying his parents, he's free to pursue the 'tenderness' he's been deprived of so long. But Detective Proctor knows (even if no one else does) that Eric is a monster, that his parents weren't his only victims, and it's only a matter of time before the next.

Chocolate War author Cormier sticks to his New England roots in this psychological thriller about two people linked by a twisted consciousness and a third monitoring their every move. The real clutch of this book is intuition, an awareness of each character's contribution to the story and the motives which propel their actions. Nowhere is this better seen than the author's despiction of Eric, a most unlikely teenage sociopath. (YP FIC CORMIER)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Cry of the Dove, by Fadia Faqir

The book is about Salma, a Bedouin Arab woman who is now called Sally and lives in Exeter, England. She was forced to emigrate after bringing dishonor to her family by having a child out of wedlock. She turned to her teacher for help, who saved her life only by turning her over to the police. In prison for her safety, she gave birth to a girl who was immediately taken away from her. She learned to sew and stayed in the prison for six years. An English nun who rescues girls like her offered to take her to a convent in Lebanon, to live and be safe from her brother who intends to kill her to absolve the stain on their family’s name. She is happy in Lebanon, but word comes that her family has traced her there, and she is persuaded to flee to England under a new name, Sally Asher. There she works as a seamstress and lives struggling for existence, for a way out of poverty and ignorance and fear.
The author, Fadia Faqir, tells the story as a mosaic, showing us small parts of Salma’s life in seemingly disjointed order. Some of the parts are pages long, others just a brief paragraph, a glimpse of a scene We see her in the hills herding goats, as a love-struck teenager, and then are abruptly brought back into the bleakness of her present circumstance. In Exeter, with her pidgin English and work as a seamstress for low wages, Salma is driven by loneliness to venture into pubs, looking for companionship. The juxtaposition of the different times of her life works by capturing our engagement in our present while being carried by currents of the past.
Salma’s particular tragedy and its pain speak to us, as we in the West seek to discover how these new neighbors of ours are like us and not alike. Faqir shows us the suspicion and misguided ideas that confront Salma regarding her identity, as an Arab and a Muslim, and in tandem with these we see our Western culture with her eyes, helping us to see what is strange to her and to other foreigners.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes / by Ray Bradbury

Mr. Dark and his Pandemonium Show are a carnival like no other. Rolling into town one full-moon October night, their eerie attractions soon entrance even the cynical and possess a power beyond conception. But a strange fate awaits fairgoers as fulfilled dreams can become nightmares when beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive. With their town succumbing to Mr. Dark's malevolence, 12-year-old Jim Nightshade and best friend Will are the only ones to foresee a dreadful end for their town and those they love.

Ray Bradbury's imagination knows no bounds. A figurehead of the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre for decades, his works include Farenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and The Martian Chronicles. This book marks the debut of 'The Illustrated Man', a character whose unusual tattoos come alive. First published in 1962, Something Wicked... was made into a Disney movie starring Jason Robards.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The First World War / by John Keegan

Americans seem to view World Wars with more patriotic flare than their overseas counterparts. Fighting on mainly foreign soil and backed by a loyal homefront; reprisal or condemnation of either WWI or WWII is less fervent. Indeed it's hard to imagine any war other than WWII being termed "The Great War". But the First World War (1914-1918) was all that and more. Pitting conventional warfare against brutal artillery, empire versus empire, and absorbing enough resources to impoverish a continent; World War I was at the same time the most lethal and most politically-altering war ever.

Royal Military Academy lecturer and scholar John Keegan accomplishes the impossible in this equally comprehensive and concise book chronicling each phase, each front, each nation, and every major player of World War I. Discussing in detail the root catalysts and initial conflicts which ultimately led to bloodshed, carnage, and revolution; Keegan provides a fresh and unbiased view on the "War to end all Wars". This is a great and relatively easy read for anyone interested in history or war. The audio version is read by narrator Simon Prebble.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sexy Beast (R) /starring Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone

Gary 'Gal' Dove is done. Through with a life of crime and the time he paid for it, his "retirement" in sunny Spain is far from all former ties to London's ruthless underworld. Being through means paradise to Gal and wife DeeDee at their dreamy seaside villa until old 'friend' Don Logan tries to claim Gal for one last job.

Kingsley is routinely robbed of Oscar caliber performances but depriving him here was way off. His portrayal of the menacing Don, a man who long ago crossed the line from steady delinquent to reprobate psychopath, is too grotesque to look away from. Winstone's ('Gal') 'reformed criminal' is the perfect foil to Don's demonic wilfullness and the supporting cast is perfect. As a psychological thriller, 'Beast' is comparable to Silence of the Lambs or Seven and on par with Miller's Crossing or Pulp Fiction for a glance into the criminal underground.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nighttime is My Time/Mary Higgins Clark

Class reunions can bring out the worst in people. At a special gathering of high school alums, a killer secretly stalks those who made him the victim 20 years earlier.

A northeastern prep school catering to rich, talented, foreword-leaning teens; this former Stonecroft Academy class features a distinguished group of scholars, businessmen, and hollywood stars. Yet the glamour of this reunion is overshadowed due to the deaths of several former students--all women--from recent "accidents". Scandal soon takes center stage as another of the "lunch table girls" disappears. Another scandal ups the tension for former student Jean Sheridan as she returns to confront a past she can't forget and a child she's never met. Coincidences become unlikely when another disappearance, along with a series of taunting hints at Jean, force detective Sam Keegan and plucky student-turned-investigator Jake Perkins to speculate on a revenge plot. But who among the 42 attendees could be the killer and how could he (or she?) know so much about Jean's secret? Are Jean and the daughter she's yet to meet next?

Currently top-billed mystery/suspense author Clark knows how to tell a story and the intrigue of 'Nighttime' will keep her loyal fans page turning. While practiced mystery buffs may yawn at the (somewhat) overblown motive of the killer and cringe at his darkside alter-ego (The Owl???), the plot survives on melodrama alone. Despite larger-than-life characters and predictable dialogue, 'Nighttime' delivers on its action making for a good night time read.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Penumbra by Carolyn Haines

Drexel, Mississisppi is a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else and no one forgets anything. Jade Dupree, a beautiful beautician who helps prepare the dead for funerals, will never belong, even though she has lived her entire life in Drexel, for Jade is the half-black, unacknowledged daughter of society queen Lucille Longier. Dead people often tell Jade things, but it is the still-living who cause problems and bring fear and violence into the community. When Jade's lovely, but troubled, white sister Marlena is brutally assaulted and her niece Susanna is kidnapped, Jade seeks out sheriff's deputy, Frank Kimble to help save her family. But Frank lives with ghosts of his own.

A haunting mystery with a ghostly Southern twist.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

National Novel Writing Month

(X posted to the Moore Teens Unite blog)

Ever wanted to write a story or a novel, but felt like you needed a little push? A growing international phenomenon, which last year included almost 80,000 registered participants, declares that November is the month to begin!

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately called by participants, begins in November. The idea is to write a 50,000 word book in the thirty days of November. For those of you counting, that's about 1,670 words a day. Or, in simpler numbers, 2,000 words a day means finishing a rough draft in 25 days.

Participants can register at the
NaNoWriMo website. The website includes message boards, word meters, posted drafts, and more to support the writers. You can even order supportive emails from best selling authors including Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Garth Nix, and Tom Robbins to name a few.

Begun in 1999 with a total of 21 participants, National Novel Writing Month is the brainchild of Chris Baty, who has written a book-No Plot? No Problem (808.3 Baty)-that tells the story of how NaNoWriMo came to be and provides many useful tips for writing a novel in just thirty days.

In his book, Baty explains that after his first experience trying to write a novel in only 30 days he realized, "The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline." He also states that writing at such a crazy pace helps people to overcome their need for perfection in their writing and to take risks that they wouldn't otherwise.

The book is positive and upbeat. Included with the writing tips are time management tips (make large dishes with lots of leftovers so you don't have to cook every day), questions to ask yourself about your writing style and about the story that you want to write, week-by-week information about potential pitfalls, and ideas for revising your messy rough draft once you finish.

So are you thinking you may be interested? Let us know here at the Moore Memorial Library. We'd be happy to set up a writing group/support group for anyone interested.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Peony in Love, by Lisa See

This book is the first I have read by Lisa See, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The novel takes as its starting point the ideal of romantic love overcoming the limitations of death and of earthly time. Then Ms. See adds the theme of women’s subjugation in history and how they conspired to make themselves heard, directly or indirectly. There was an opera written in the 16th century in China called “The Peony Pavilion”, whose subject was undying love. A century later, a commentary of the opera was published by Wu Wushan, which was written by his three wives. Ms. See uses this publishing event as the basis for the story, making her heroine, Peony, the first of the three wives. The author’s aim is to make Peony’s life a living translation of the stylized plot of the opera. To do this, her heroine gives us realistic details of their time, including excruciating descriptions of footbinding. (This practice is presented as part of the cultural superiority of the Ming Dynasty, which was overthrown by the Manchus.) The book is an interesting pastiche of Chinese culture and folklore, but Ms. See, in Peony, does not succeed in creating a character noble enough to embody the struggles women go through to find identity and expression. However, the book is written in a flowing and expressive prose, and Peony’s heartaches and failures do keep our interest throughout the story.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Adam Bede by George Eliot (Audio Version on CD); read by David Case

It didn't take Mary Ann Evans too much time to realize she was as good a writer as many of her contemporaries. 'The Movement' of literary realism in reaction to 19th century Romanticism (think Jane Austen) was unquestionably male dominant; forefronted by Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Hardy and the like. But her ultimate decision to write as "George Eliot" became redundant, however, as her work proliferated worldwide cementing her legacy amidst the pillars of Victorian literature. Gifted with astute clarity and a sharp eye at interpreting human behavior, Eliot's writing concerns very commonplace rural and small town lives central to her own location in the Midlands.

In Adam Bede, a young carpenter's devotion to a strikingly beautiful farm hand turns sour when she catches the eye of the local landowner. The passions of both men climax at the realization of each's feelings. The real genius of this book is Eliot's use of few characters and even fewer settings as opposed to a Dickens novel where people and places reach into the dozens. Australian David Case masterfully enhances the story's mood and maintains the reader's interest in each character. Though the realism abides throughout, the tone is never somber or cynical and all four protagonists contain just the right amount of ambiguity to create an intriguing plot with no heroes or villains. Even the seemingly victimized are never cast a shadow over as redemption and reconciliation are present by the story's end. (AD FIC ELIOT)

The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel / Rachael Antony

I got a huge kick out of The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel by Rachael Antony and Joel Henry (call # is 910.202 ANTONY). For those of you not already familiar with the Lonely Planet series of travel guides (by the way, we have bunches in the library if you're interested), they tend to target the more adventurous, less traditional sort of traveller. Nevertheless, most of them are pretty traditional in format, focusing on a single place or area, providing information on where to stay, what to do when you arrive, how to arrange transportation to your destination, etc. This book is entirely different, however.

Taking the creed of "anti-tourism" (which frankly, I never before knew existed), it offers a series of travel games or "experiments" to get you where you're going and then occupy your time once you're there. A few examples are: go to a new city, borrow a dog and let the dog take you on a walk; choose your hotel based not on its amenities but from the view from your hotel window; honor the second-highest mountain on earth (called K-2) by selecting a map at random and visiting the place located at the square K-2 on the map's grid. All of the travel exercises are designed to make their adherents look at the world around them with a new perspective.

While I don't know if I would actually use this book to plan my vacation, I had a great time reading through all of the exercises and imagining where I'd end up if I did. It's definitely worth picking up.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

October Reader's Rants

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness /
by Kay Redfield Jamison, M.D.
Dr. Jamison is Chief of the Psychiatry Department at Johns Hopkins. She is also a life long manic-depressive making her a leading authority on this brand of bipolar disorder. Extreme despair and hyperactivity accompany Jamison from adolescence into her 40’s as she struggles through tattered relationships, spending spree manias, even a near fatal suicide attempt—all resulting from her condition. An acute perspective in the realm of depressive illnesses, her memoir is extremely insightful for anyone involved with someone suffering from a disease of this type.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid / by Bill Bryson
Think of Beaver Cleaver in his cuffed jeans and buzz cut eating dinner with his family. Now picture him sneaking in to a strip club. Such is the dichotomy of this authentic, humorous, and openly lascivious memoir by Bill Bryson who somehow embraces the 1950's America without censoring human nature. Bryson uproots his own Iowa childhood reminiscing on a wide spectrum of nuances like grade school drama, red scare follies, and Sunday morning TV. An easy read perhaps most aimed at baby boomers, this is for anyone wanting a laugh with a dose of nostalgia.

The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million / by Daniel Mendolshon

All or most of Holocaust literature is retrospective in nature. And while this book deals heavily with the past, it closes the gap between living history and the present day via Mendelshon’s passionate journey of discovery. Almost like true crime or forensic literature, we see a heavily involved man—Mendolsohn—seeking the truth behind his holocaust era Jewish relatives who vanished during the final solution. Plodding at times, readers may get too bogged down with details to appreciate the mystery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (DVD)

Ever wanted to be on "Survivor"? What about "Big Brother"? Confined spaces, limited daily needs, strangers with shady motives; not to mention any unforeseen hazards . What if there was no house, no tropical vegetation, no land--just a boat on the ocean miles from anything? Such is life on Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) as 10 survivors from a bombed out cargo/transport ship end up stranded on the rickety vessel facing far greater troubles. Several of the boat's passengers are wounded, several sparsely clothed, some ill-tempered as all deal with their own personal shock from the ship's destruction. The motley crew (7 men, 3 women) must fight against the current, the hours, and each other to survive; dealing as they can with whatever they have hoping for a rescue that may never find them.

Hitchcock never fails to deliver in the suspense genre and this film is one his best combining the all-star talents of Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, and Hume Cronyn to create one of the best lost-at-sea movies of the 20th century.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart / by Alice Walker

Classic-contemporary author Alice Walker, she of The Color Purple fame, details a freethinking couple's vacation to separate locales in this surrealistic novel. Thrice-divorced Kate is a well-accomplished writer living with her current partner, Yolo, a successful painter when the couple decides to take a break from it all and re-evaluate their relationship, each on their own "spiritual" sabbatical. Kate's journey begins and stays rooted in nature first rafting the Colorado River and finally backpacking into Mexico with a group seeking spiritual enlightenment. Accompanied by a shaman spirit guide and complete with some organic hallucinogenic aids, Kate and her diverse companions attempt a mystical brand of spiritual revival. More conventional but no less unpredictable, Yolo escapes to Hawaii seeking peace and quiet after a rigorous period of painting only to discover some re-awakening of his own when he encounters a former lover.

Walker's easy style allows any reader to tap into her characters even during the most "out-there" episodes and the down-to-earth frankness in her delivery will relate well to any reader. Fans of Walker's poetry and non-fiction will recognize her own voice clearly realized in Kate's oft-given reflections on personal, social, political, and relational concerns. This is a great book for anyone seeking a bit of fantasy within realistic fiction and as well as some new vacation ideas. (FIC WALKER)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The House of Blue Mangoes / David Davidar

This book traces the story of a family in southern India, starting at the end of the last century until India’s birth as a nation. The author, David Davidar, is portraying a fictional family set in real history, and the book enables you to experience first hand the sights, sounds and even the smells of this part of India. As the story moves through the generations, your interest is skillfully carried over from the founding father, Soloman Dorai, to his son Daniel, who finds success in the apothecary trade and uses his wealth to rebuild the original family compound in their native village. The role of race and nationality in Indian culture is shown in all its complexity, both within their caste system and in their relations to the British, who are there administering colonial rule. Daniel’s son, Kannan, is the last major figure in the book. Actually employed by the British in their plantation system, he is a foil for the winds of social change which begin to make themselves felt at all levels of society. The characters are alive and the whole is a stirring and heartfelt realization of that time and that place.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September Reader's Rants

Our Endangered Values by Former President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter is still active within many circles of social and political life in America. Indirectly, he supports and maintains several humanitarian missions like “Habitat for Humanity” and the “Carter Center” in his hometown of Atlanta. Here he analyzes some fundamental issues foreign and domestic, social and political that he feels threaten our current standard of living. Things such as religious fundamentalism, the growing economic divide between the upper and lower classes, global warming, and American military presence abroad are subjects which Carter evaluates and expresses with his own viewpoints. No matter what your political leaning, anyone should be able to appreciate someone as involved and influential as Carter speaking up on the existing state of the nation.

The Shame of a Nation: the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
by Jonathan Kozol

Kozol is a former Harvard graduate and veteran Civil Rights advocate who’s been engaged in American public schools in one way or another for over forty years. Stating that social reforms originally established to eliminate segregation of American public schools have backslidden, he argues that our nation’s public schools (particularly in highly diverse inner-city communities) are at a worse state now than they were in the pre-Civil Rights era. Using an abundance of personally observed conditions and interviews with politicians, administrators, teachers, and students (some as young as 4 or 5), Kozol makes no debate about what the problem is, the source of it, and who is to blame. This book is very “leftist” but not without validity concerning where the nation is headed if the educational system is not reformed. The book is a good read for anyone who is involved in some area of the public schools – be it directly as a parent/teacher or indirectly as a taxpayer.

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank

Acclaimed author of The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is back again with a new novel confronting young people’s difficulties and concerns as seen through one girl’s transition into womanhood. We meet Sophie Applebaum as an early teenager in suburban Pennsylvania struggling to cement an identity while encountering the issues of people in her life. Sophie emerges as a single New York woman more confident but still feeling around for confirmation and affection. This book is for individuals with a more sincere interest in chick lit rather than the over-the-top, Janet Evanovitch style. Personally I felt a little detached from Sophie’s character, perhaps due in part to Bank’s more laid back style of revelation. Purely seen as a story, however, The Wonder Spot won’t disappoint too many readers.

Encyclopedia of Juvenile Justice (see Reference Dept.)

This is a locally edited and published reference book dealing with the present day juvenile justice system. Topically indexed alphabetically, subjects like delinquency, petty vandalism, and misdemeanor or addressed in a well referenced and documented form. Cross-references to related subject headings make for a very solid syndetic scheme. This reference book is something we may not have a lot of “out-right” reference questions about. But it nonetheless provides some fluid information on the maintenance and operation of our nation’s juvenile justice system.

Cell by Stephen King

King’s latest macabre extaordinaire rewards the many long-time faithful readers of his horror classics with another solid, well-paced tale of conformity gone mad. Cell has just the right balance of drama, action, and curiosity along with--as always--blood and gore for most readers. A master storyteller who fashions literature anyone will gravitate toward, King modernizes this horror tale with a little ingenuity by creating a virus spread by cell phones. This virus or “pulse” is spread as a person holds their cell phone to his or her ear as radio waves are dispersed from the satellite signals. The immediate influx of literally millions of infected persons creates a frenzy of zombie-like maniacal beings reaking havoc through the streets. The plot for the story is almost immediately set down as we see the “normies” (people without cell phones and who haven’t used one since the virus began) are at war with the infected converts. King will never go wrong in appealing to the mass market readers. But anyone looking to graduate from overly-sympathetic characters and saccharin themes of good, evil, hypocrisy, and sentimentalism might need to look elsewhere.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Michael Chabon reading in Houston

For those of you who are Michael Chabon fans (or who may become Michael Chabon fans), you have a chance to hear him read from his newest novel in Houston on Monday, Sept. 10th. He's going to be in Houston as part of the Inprint Reading Series, which brings some amazing authors to Houston for your listening pleasure. More information about the Michael Chabon reading (and others by big names like Alice McDermott, Dave Eggers and Vikram Chandra) is available here.

Chabon's most recent book is The Yiddish Policmen's Union, which is a detective story set in a world in which Jews settled in Alaska instead of Israel after World War II. Chabon won a Pulitzer in 2001 for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. He also wrote The Wonder Boys, which was made into a movie starring Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The first wave by James R. Benn

Young Lt. Billy Boyle, a Boston beat cop working as a special investigator for his uncle Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, comes ashore in the first wave of the Allied invasion of Algeria during World War II. Hoping to help liberate Algeria from Vichy France and force the retreat of Rommel from North Africa, Billy quickly finds himself caught up in the middle of a nightmarish situation, where loyalties and power shift continuously. Caught between French Fascist militia, black market operators, Vichy French troops, Resistance fighters and Allied invasion forces, Billy tries to investigate the murders of several American soldiers, while safeguarding the shipment of the new miracle drug penicillin and saving the life of a beautiful British spy. The second mystery in the Billy Boyle series, this is an exciting story with memorable characters in a little-known historical setting

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sammy's House by Kristen Gore

Sammy Joyce may be a trouble-magnet, a klutz, and a hypochondriac, but she is also the talented, young health-care advisor to the Vice President of the United States. Halfway through the Administration's first term, when success seems assured, a damaging leak to the press reveals that the President may be drinking heavily again. Before the source of the leak can be discovered, more scandal breaks concerning foreign drug agreements, illegitimate family members in the First Family, and drug addiction in the Administration. On the personal front, Sammy's deepening relationship with a Washington Post reporter brings more stress and confusion and the possibility of betrayal. Struggling to handle her personal life while dealing with multiple political crises, Sammy fights to keep her career, her dignity and her honesty intact.

Kristen Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, writes from the perspective of a White House insider. This is West Wing in print, with all the drama, humor, and pathos of working at the center of American politics today. A fun and thought-provoking read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Black Elk in Paris / Kate Horsley

I have to admit I picked up Kate Horsley's Black Elk in Paris (FIC HORSLEY) partially because of the cover. Luckily I was rewarded for my superficiality with a great story. Set in Paris at the time of the 1889 Universal Exposition (click here to view actual photos of the exposition, courtesy of the Library of Congress), the story revolves around Black Elk, a Native American healer who has been abandoned in Paris by Buffalo Bill's traveling Wild West show. The story is told from the perspective of a bachelor physician who frequents the home of the Parisian family with whom Black Elk stays. The author uses the city of Paris almost as another character in the book. It is beautiful and self-indulgent, by turns poignant and callous. All the characters are changed by their contact with Black Elk, the "savage" who desperately longs for his troubled homeland in America.

Author Kate Horsley has a simple but lyrical writing style and a penchant for unusual storylines. Her characters tend to have a mystical bent and live in times of great cultural change. She also wrote Confessions of a Pagan Nun (FIC HORSLEY), the story of a Druid woman who becomes a Christian nun in the days of the expansion of the Christianity to the British Isles. I give both books the thumbs-up.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Galveston County Reads

Galveston County Reads is a program which promotes a certain book every year for libraries, schools, and civic organizations to read and discuss. This year's book is Ernest J. Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, a classic novel featuring a close-to-home setting about a black man accused of murder in post World War II Louisiana. First published in 1993 by already well-reputed author Gaines, the book was well-received by critics and was even a Oprah's book selection in 1997. Copies are available at all county libraries and a telecasted interview with the author has been set up for the new year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Notable Narrators

Recently I completed a bibliography with some of the most well-known audiobook narrators. Included were such stalwarts of the medium as George Guidall, Anna Fields, Grover Gardner, and Simon Prebble. If you haven't heard of any of these people, be sure to supscribe to our check out our website and look under "Books & More" to see a copy of it. Guidall has recorded many of Tony Hillerman's mysteries while Fields has been all over the map with books like The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Hello everyone. This is the first entry from the Texas City Library's own weblog. That's right, Moore Memorial Public Library now has its very own interactive space dedicated to books, movies, and other library resources as well as what's new with the library. Moore Musings (I know, I know... it's still a work in progress) will offer a place for patrons to check out the latest bestsellers and get up to speed on what we, the staff, feel are some great books for your reading pleasure.