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.