Friday, August 30, 2013

Some context on Syria

Where is Syria, and why should I care?

What's going there? What's this about chemical weapons used on civilians? Why am I hearing rumors that there may be a U.S. strike on Syria?

If you want to better understand the civil war that is raging on in this Middle Eastern country, here are three resources that endeavor to give you a quick primer on the country and the escalation of its internal conflict:
For some history, background and other stories on Syria and its people, come into the library and check out these books and DVDs:


Damascus Paradise on Earth

DVD 956.91 SYRIA


The Bread of Angels: A journey to love and faith
by Stephanie Saldana
956.914 SALDANA

Demanding Dignity: Young voices from the front lines of the Arab revolutions
By Maytha Alhassen
909.0974927 DEMANDIN

The Other Side of the Mirror: An American travels through Syria
By Brooke Allen
915.6910442 ALLEN

Stolen: Escape from Syria
By Louise Monaghan
306.8743 MONAGHAN

By Anne-Marie Edeé

By John F. Morrison

The Templars: The history and the myth
By Michael Haag
271.7913 HAAG

The Truth about Syria
Barry M. Rubin
956.91042 RUBIN

What Every American Should Know About the Middle East
By M. L. Rossi

A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian revolution
By Samar Yazbik
956.91042092 YAZBIK

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Introvert's Way by Sophia Dembling

Writer Sophia Dembling knew she'd hit a nerve when she wrote an online essay entitled "Confessions of an Introverted Traveler" and hundreds of people responded with comments. Dembling's piece, which celebrated the charms of exploring new places alone, clearly resonated with others who, like her, had never felt the need to be sociable by reaching out and connecting with strangers.

Dembling started a blog on the topic, comparing notes with thousands of others, resulting in her book The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World (155.232 DEMBLING). For those who prefer a quiet night in to a noisy night out, a party of two to a party of 20, this is the book for you. For those who have friends who always seem to shun the social scene and you want to know why, this is the book for you.

Readers who are introverts themselves (or who don't realize they're introverts until they've read the book) will find vindication in its pages. Dembling puts forth a case for why introversion is common, normal and, perhaps most importantly, totally okay. Readers who have introverts for friends will come to understand what fuels an introvert and how best to find common ground.

What makes an introvert? An abiding need for privacy and periods of solitude. An aversion to small talk and crowds. A tendency to take time to think things through rather than fling out off-the-cuff reactions. These qualities, Dembling writes, goes against the very grain of American culture, which gravitates toward the clamor of the multitudes, two things that introverts abhor.

Dembling goes on to give an easy-to-digest pop-science account of how introverts are different from extroverts and the connotations — most of the negative — that society heaps upon them.
We appear mild-mannered and we're not usually ones to gripe in public, but introverts can be as surly as the next guy. We get annoyed by assumptions made about us and behaviors directed at us.
With chapter titles like "I Like People, Just Not All People All the Time" and "Introverts are Not Failed Extroverts," Dembling doesn't pull any punches and make any apologies. She's frank and personable as she disputes common attitudes and researchers' often less-than-charitable descriptions of introversion, bolstering her argument with her own experiences and those her readers have shared.

What Dembling succeeds most at, however, is soothing the slighted souls of her fellow introverts, affirming their legitimacy and their right to be who they are. They don't need therapy. They don’t need to change. They simply need acceptance.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Austenland by Shannon Hale FIC HALE

Thirty-two year old Jane Hayes knows that she is way too obsessed with Pride and Prejudice (even hiding her Pride and Prejudice DVDs in a houseplant), and she knows that this has tainted most of the relationships that she has had with men (they just can't measure up to Mr. Darcy). Jane has even decided to completely give up on men (spinsterhood is good enough for her). On a visit with her Great-aunt Carolyn, her aunt cautions Jane about her obsession, and after Carolyn's death (to prove her point, I believe), Carolyn leaves Jane a trip to England to stay at Pembrook Park, a resort that allows its guests to live in the time period of Jane Austen's novels (1816, to be more precise) and maybe find some romance along the way.

Jane loves the clothes and the atmosphere of Pembrook Park, but she is having a hard time "pretending" (as Miss Jane Erstwhile) with everyone else. She enjoys spending time with the "actors" and other guests, but she wonders what they are really thinking and feeling. Mr. Nobely is the perfect Mr. Darcy, incredibly rude and standoffish. Colonel Andrews is rakish and a social butterfly, and Captain East has a secret past with one of the guests, Miss Amelia Heartright. Then she meets a lowly gardener named Theodore (though Martin is his real name), and though she enjoys spending time with him (he has a television in his room), she is reminded that she is not in the real world and not dealing with her insecurities. Jane eventually learns to embrace the Austen period and enjoys her time spent flirting with the gentleman (especially with Mr. Nobely) and conversing with the ladies. She is even sad to see the end come to her stay at Pembrook Park. There is a clever twist at the end (that I am surprised that I did not see coming), and a happy ending is found. Bravo!

I enjoyed how cleverly Shannon Hale wove the stories of Jane Austen into the book and how she was able to work the Austen period phrases in with more modern speak. I know I would have a hard time conversing with others at Pembrook Park (especially if I had to continue speaking that way for days and days). I also chuckled out loud at several of the antics that Jane got up to. This book is a light, enjoyable read, especially if you are a fan of Jane Austen. The audiobook is read by Katherine Kellgren, who is one of my favorite narrators, and she does a wonderful job of giving each person their own unique voice, although (sadly) I prefer to listen to her when she's using a British accent.
Austenland has been made into a movie by Sony Pictures, but it is only been released in a limited number of theaters. To find the nearest movie theater to you, check the website for dates and locations at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, translated by Lulu Norman

In 2003 twelve suicide bombers took their own lives in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, killing 41 people and injuring over one hundred people.  They detonated their explosives in a luxury hotel, a restaurant, a Jewish community center and outside of the Belgian consulate.  The bombers were young men from Sidi Moumen, a slum on the outskirts of Casablanca.  Living in dire poverty, they were recruited by a religious man who gave them training in martial arts and converted them to Islam- the religion of their country, but one that they had had no real exposure to in their difficult lives.

Mahi Binebine, the author of this book, 54 year old painter and teacher, was raised in Morocco but left the country to go to Paris as a young man to study mathematics.  He taught mathematics for some years in Paris and spent five years in New York before returning to his homeland eleven years ago.  His novels portray people suffering from trauma and loss, presented in a detached and matter of fact narrative style. 

Horses of God refers to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible, who go out to wage war on God’s enemies.  The narrator, Yachine, is one of the bombers who is telling us the story after he is dead.  Binebine gives us a few details of Yachine’s afterlife existence.  Yachine describes himself as a ghost, wandering in the world that he used to live in.  He is full of thoughts which enlighten but at the same time he is “on fire”, tortured by demons.  He experiences his loved ones’ grief at his death as poison that torments him.  He is overwhelmed to witness others like himself taking this same route to martyrdom.  Like him they learn of the Koranic promises of beautiful women in paradise waiting for them. His knowledge now is different – since all he found was death. 

The book follows the young men’s orientation into better jobs and better living situations with the help of the radical Islamist group, who proselytize against the West and against their countrymen who have given up their souls in obeisance to Western capitalism and its godlessness.  They are told that they have a weapon that this mighty foe does not – their own flesh and blood.  Yachine wants to fly away from this existence and be born anew, as God’s chosen one. 

An award winning film was made of this book, and the director, Nabil Ayouch, has joined with Mahi in building a cultural center in Sidi Moumen, a place where the youth and residents may create and perform their own works, in music, theater, and art. 

A woman who lost her son and husband in the bombings viewed the movie and took issue with the implication of poverty as the culprit, the reason for this carnage.  Yet the book doesn’t really come to this conclusion.  We have to figure this one out for ourselves, and for the other young men like Yachine.

To see the book in our catalog, click here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Only Two Weeks Left for Summer Reading!!!!

Hi Everyone, I hope that you are having fun with all of the reading you have been doing this summer. I am so happy when I pass by Sir-Read-A-Lot and see how much he has grown, and I am so proud of all the hard work that everyone has done to get him that way. YEAH!!! 

 I want to remind everyone that there are still two weeks left to power read through your stacks of books and get your reading logs in on time. I also want to remind you that we have a couple of activities available that will lead to some other prizes. 

The READING MAZE was a new idea we are trying out this year. All you have to do is work your way down the maze, reading different types of books to get to the finish line. Once you turn it in, you get a coupon that gets you a free book off of our Friends of the Library bookcart. Easy breezy!! 

There is also an AWESOME WEBSITES TREASURE HUNT available. All you do is try out the 6 websites (which are wonderful sources of information, by the way), fill in the blanks of the missing words, then use the red underlined letters to spell out a phrase on the back. I am going to ruin the surprise, but answering the questions also gets you a coupon to pick out a book off of the Friends of the Library bookcart. Awesome!!

Just keep reading, and let's see if we can get Sir-Read-Alot to cover the wall behind the Circulation Desk!! As always, Happy Reading!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fool's Gold Series by Susan Mallery FIC MALLERY

Fool's Gold is a small (fictional) town in northern California. The town seems to be going through a problem, which is brought up very quickly in Chasing Perfect (the first book in the series). The problem is that the town has a shortage of men. The men of the town never seem to stick around, and so women even hold some of the positions that you would consider to be mostly male, such as firefighters and police. Even the main bar in town, Jo's, is known for its female-oriented decor, televisions that show Project Runway and the Home Shopping Network (instead of sports), and food that's a little easier on the figure. Susan Mallery usually releases the books in the series three books at a time (usually over a three month period).

The first set begins with Chasing Perfect. Charity Jones has just taken the position of city planner for Fool's Gold, where she is  hoping to put down some roots and find some stability. She just didn't quite realize what she would be facing in the small town. The mayor, Marsha Tilson, wants Charity to bring in some new businesses to the town, but she would prefer that those businesses bring in more men than women. Charity is not quite sure how to go about this, but she finds some unexpected help from the town's "golden boy", Josh Golden, a bicyclist who has several bicycling victories, including the Tour de France, under his belt. Charity knows that Josh is the wrong kind of guy for her, but can she avoid him long enough to find the calm, stable kind of guy she is looking for? In Almost Perfect, Liz Sutton is back in Fool's Gold, even though she had never wanted to return. Her brother, Roy, is in prison, and his wife has abandoned her stepdaughters (and Liz's nieces she has never met), Melissa and Abby. Coming back to Fool's Gold means facing Ethan Hendrix and the secret that she has kept from him for the past twelve years, his son, Tyler. In Finding Perfect, Pia O'Brian is the event coordinator of Fool's Gold (she makes sure all of those numerous festivals go off without a hitch). Pia is facing a crisis at the beginning of the book. Her good friend, Crystal, had died of cancer and left her three embryos that she created with her husband, Keith, who had died in battle. Meeting with Raoul Moreno, an ex football player and owner of summer camp for children of low income families, Pia breaks down crying and tells Raoul the whole story. Raoul was Crystal's husband, Keith's, best friend, and he wants to help Pia with the process. A crisis in town also has them working together, and brings another problem to their attention.

The second set of stories involves Ethan Hendrix's triplet sisters, Dakota, Montana, and Nevada. In Only Mine, Dakota was assisting Raoul with his summer camp (she is a child psychologist), when the story about Fool's Gold's "man shortage" is released in the news. Men come flocking to town, thinking that they can find some desperate women, and there is even going to be a romance reality television show about the town. Dakota is asked by the mayor to "oversee" the show and makes sure the best interests of the town are met. While looking through the contestants, Dakota meets Finn Anderssen, who is there to stop his twin brothers from throwing away their futures and taking part in the show. When he can't change their minds or make the show drop them, he decides to stay and keep an eye on things, especially one on Dakota. However, these two will have to face several road blocks on their way to happiness. In Only Yours, Montana is happy to have finally found the job that makes her feel complete, working with therapy dogs. Unfortunately, one hopeful trainee takes off during one of the festivals and makes her way into the burn unit of the hospital. Dr. Simon Bradley is furious that a dog could hurt the suffering children on the burn unit and severely reprimands Montana for the error. Unfortunately for Montana, Mayor Marsha wants her to show Simon around (and talk him into staying in town). Montana's not looking forward to this, and Simon prefers his lonely existence, traveling around all over the world helping burn victims. Will Montana be able to see past Simon's gruff exterior to the lonely man inside? Will she get her heart broken when Simon has to leave? In Only His, Nevada has decided to leave the family construction business and break out on her own. She decides to try for a job with Janack Construction, only to run into Tucker Janack, with whom she had had a disastrous fling in college. She agrees to work with him, with a strict "business only" relationship between them, but will they be able to hold that policy in place?

The third set begins with Summer Days, where Heidi Simpson has decided to make Fool's Gold her new home, with her grandfather, Glen, and her goats. Unfortunately, there is a land dispute over the farm she bought. It seems her grandfather sold the property to May Stryker (without Heidi's permission), in order to raise money for a friend. Rafe Stryker shows up to help his mother with the dispute, but his mother is content to just share the ranch with Heidi and Glen. Rafe hated his life in Fool's Gold (with all the responsibility he had to shoulder after his dad died), and he wants the dispute settled (by either getting the money or the land back). Heidi is intimidated and intrigued by Rafe, but will the two be able to work through their differences? Summer Nights features Heidi's friend (and librarian, yeah!) Annabelle Weiss. Annabelle wants to bring in some fundraiser money toward a bookmobile for the library. In order to do this, she must ride a horse, which she has no idea how to do. Heidi suggests that Annabelle talked to Rafe's brother, Shane, who owns and trains racehorses and wants to build his own horse ranch. Shane has had it with wild and unpredictable women, and the the first glimpse of Annabelle he caught was dancing on a bar. So, he is a little leery of spending time with her, but after hearing about why she wants to learn to ride a horse, he decides to be her teacher. Will Shane discover that Annabelle is not the person he thinks she is, and will Annabelle be able to handle all of his baggage? Finally, All Summer Long is Heidi and Annabelle's friend, Charlie's story. Charlie is a firefighter who faced a big trauma while she was in college. Charlie thinks that now is the time to move past that trauma, especially if she wants to start working on the family she has always wanted. She decides to ask the youngest Stryker brother, Clay, about helping her. Clay is a former underwear model, who moved to Fool's Gold to be with his family and start a new business venture, "Haycations." Even though he no longer models, people often don't look past his outside to see what is on the inside. He also suffered a great loss and is not sure he can open his heart again. Can Charlie and Clay work through their issues together?

 The fourth set of books begins with Just One Kiss. Charlie's mother, Donminque, had hired a "bodyguard" to accompany her to Fool's Gold, and he name is Justice Garrett. It turns out that Justice is very familiar with Fool's Gold, having spent some time there when he was younger. He has never been able to forget Patience McGraw, his best friend and the girl he was forced to run out on. Now Justice is back, and he wants to open a defense academy. Patience is happy to see Justice and is drawn to him, but she is afraid of being abandoned again. Justice believes that his past will keep him from a happy ever after. Will these two be able to get it right the second time around? In Two of a Kind, Felicia is new to Fool's Gold, and she is not good at fitting in (she is incredibly brilliant which tends to intimidate people). She also cannot get that night she spent with a soldier out of her mind. To her surprise, she meets that soldier, Gideon Boylan, again in Fool's Gold. The sparks fly once again, but Gideon does not consider himself relationship material, while Felicia is looking for a happy ending. Will they be able to meet in the middle? Finally, in Three Little Words, Ford Hendrix (the missing brother who was in the military) finally comes home to Fool's Gold, where he starts a security business. He soon runs into Isabel Carlisle, his ex-fiancee's little sister, whose letters kept him sane while he was in service. Isabel's husband left her for another man, and so she is back in town to lick her wounds and run her family's bridal shop, until they sell it and she can move on with her dreams. To get his mother off his back, Ford hatches a scheme with Isabel, where they will pretend to date one another. Will this pretext lead to something more, though?

The more I read this series, the more I wish I lived in a town like Fool's Gold. I wouldn't even mind the warring sister hairdressers and having to keep them both happy with me. Susan Mallery does a great job of painting the picture of this town and all of the colorful characters that live there. You will fall in love with it in no time, just like I did. These are all quick and fun reads, and I highly recommend them. There are also stories of other couples in the books (sometimes up to three at a time), so you really feel like you are a part of the town and what's going on in it.

If you want to read more stories like those in the Fool's Gold series, check out our Small-Town Life display coming this fall, on which you can find some of the books in this series (and many others). There is also a bibliography of these small town books (in two parts) on the Books for Adults section of the website, and there are some printed copies with the other bibliographies next to the catalog computers. Check them out!

Just for fun, Susan Mallery has created a website for Fool's Gold, with a timeline for the city, news and events (including a list of the numerous festivals), and there are even pictures of the various characters. The website is :