Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some Interesting Reasons to Be Reading

   1. "Reading Can Chill You Out"- Apparently, research was conducted at the Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, which showed that it took only six minutes of reading for the participants to relax (their heart rates and muscle tension were measured). Reading even beat listening to music or taking a walk.

Getting caught up in the issues of the characters also gives you a way of taking yourself away from those stressful thoughts for a while. I know that is very true in my case. Books always help me de-stress (unless of course the characters are in mortal peril). 

2. "Reading Can Help Keep Your Mind Sharp" - Research published in the journal, Neurology, showed that out of 294 participants that died around the average age of 89, those who engaged in "mentally stimulating activies," such as reading or puzzles, experienced a slower decline in their memories (32%).

I know that while reading I am always learning all kinds of new things, and reading one thing usually leads me to research the topics that are brought up in that story. 

3. "Reading May Help You Sleep Better" - Sleep experts recommend a regular "de-stressing" routine before bed that will calm your mind. Reading is a great activity for this, if you don't get too caught up in the story and can't put your book down. 

This is true for me, especially if I am reading my Nook in the dark. However, I am easily caught up in a story, and hours might pass before I am ready to set my Nook down, which is not good for my sleeping pattern. 

Check out some of the other reasons, or click on the links to learn more about the studies that were discussed in the article at:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Reading- Popular Reads for the Season

It's that time of year again, and hopefully it will start to feel like it outside, too. There are many great books being published this fall, and listed below are only a few of the most-talked-about books being published this season. Give them a try and let me know if they deserve all of the attention they are getting. As always, Happy Reading!!!

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Having wrapped her Women of the Otherworld Series, Armstrong’s latest, Omens, is the first book in the Cainsville series. Olivia Taylor-Jones seems to have the perfect life until it all comes crashing down when she finds out that she was adopted, and that her biological parents are convicted serial killers, Todd and Pamela Larsen. So Olivia heads to Cainsville, Illinois to escape all of the media chaos and find out the truth about her parents and her past, with the help of Gabriel Walsh, her biological mother’s lawyer and “ambulance chaser.”

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Pride and Prejudice is a work that has had many sequels, remakes, and modernizations made of it, but Jo Baker takes a different look at the story, from the points of view of the servants of Longbourn. However, it is a more in depth look at early nineteenth century life, even the unromantic parts like chamber pots and lice. You will find the major players from the original story, but you will also see that the servants had their own issues, dreams, romances, and views.

One Summer, America 1927  by Bill Bryson
973.915 BRYSON (audio is coming soon)

The summer of 1927 was a very eventful time in American history. Charles Lindbergh had just made his historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean, while Babe Ruth was batting his way to the home run record. A murder case was tearing its way through the tabloids, while the American South was washing away with the flooding of the Mississippi Basin. Al Capone was terrorizing Chicago, while the first “talking picture,” The Jazz Singer (a movie that would completely change the motion picture industry), was being filmed. Bryson documents all of these important events and more…

Year Zero: A History of 1945  by Ian Buruma
940.5314 BURUMA (coming soon)
With the ending of World War II, the world was taking on a new shape. The year 1945 marks a huge turning point in the history of the world. Throughout Europe and Asia, buildings and properties lay in ruin, there was an enormous loss of life, and the governments of many of the countries were in disarray. Buruma looks at the year 1945, and using the stories of different individuals dealing with issues that came after the war was over, he helps readers see the effects of the efforts that were made to bring back some measure of “normal” that the war had destroyed.

The Signature of All Thing by Elizabeth Gilbert
FIC GILBERT (also in audio)

Gilbert returns to writing fiction after publishing her memoirs (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed). Spanning almost two hundred years, this novel is about the fortunes and ideologies of the Whittaker family. Henry Whittaker is born poor, but makes a fortune in the South American quinine trade, using his knowledge of botany. Henry’s daughter, Alma, is a botanist, continuing with her father’s fascination with plants, but she also is very curious about the ways of the world and her place in it. Gilbert has done a lot of research into botany and other scientific issues of the time, and she takes us traveling around the world with her characters.

Doctor Sleep  by Stephen King
FIC KING (also in audio)

The sequel to The Shining, published in 1977, Doctor Sleep shows us the scars that his year living in the Overlook Hotel have left on Danny, now Dan, Torrance. Dan has been drifting for years and fighting with alcoholism, but he has finally settled down in a small New Hampshire town, using what is left of his “shining” abilities to help folks in the hospice pass on, earning him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” Then Dan “meets” Abra Stone, a girl with incredibly strong “shining” abilities that put her in the crosshairs of The True Knot. The True Knot is a group traveling around in their RVs, disguised as the elderly, who suck “steam” (or essence) from children with psychic abilities (in order to gain some immortality) and “steam” is best enjoyed while the child is being tortured to death. Can Dan save Abra from these octogenarian “vampires?”

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
FIC LAHIRI  (coming soon in Large Print and audio)

The story looks at the lives of two brothers, who even though they look very similar, are very different in many ways. In 1960s India, Udayan Mitra is drawn to the Naxalite movement (seeking justice for the poor), and he is willing to die for what he believes in. His brother, Subhash, however, chooses a quiet life, conducting scientific research in America. Whenever tragedy befalls Udayan in the lowland, Subhash comes home to help his family pick up the pieces that his brother had broken.

Dallas 1963  by Bill Minutaglio and Stephen L. Davis
973.9022092 MINUTAGL

This story looks at Dallas and the political and social turmoil that was already brewing before Kennedy was even elected in 1960. The city was full of individuals and groups that thought they had a good reason to dislike (or worse) Kennedy and his ideologies, and this chaotic grumbling led many to warn the president against his November visit.

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
FIC PYNCHON (coming soon in audio)

 In the year 2001, before the tragedy of 9/11, Maxine Tarnow is the owner of a small fraud investigations business, chasing down small-scale con artists. After losing her license, Maxine has taken the opportunity to look for clues while using her own interesting code of ethics (and her Beretta). Looking into the finances of a computer security firm, Maxine finds that she may have gotten in over her head, into the “deep web” where all of the secrets seem to be hiding. Now she faces drug runners, secret agents, mobsters, bloggers, and hackers, many of whom wind up dead.  

The Bone Season  by Samantha Shannon

In the year 2059, many of the world’s major cities are now under the control of the Scion, a security force. In the Scion’s world, being a “voyant” makes you a traitor and earns you a stay in the “voyant” prison in the city of Oxford (called Sheol 1 and long missing from current maps). Paige Mahoney works in the “criminal underworld” of London, using her “dreamwalker” (rare form of clairvoyance) abilities to gather information. After she is arrested, Paige finds that an even worse force than the Scion exists, the Rephaim, and they control the “voyants” that enter their prison, making them into soldiers for their army. Assigned to Warden, the Rephaite in charge of her care and training, Paige must learn something of his mind, if she ever hopes to regain her freedom.        

Friday, October 11, 2013

Looking for some laughs? This year's Thurber winner

Laughing Michael
Photo by ~Ealasaid~ available through a Creative Commons license

If you're ever looking for tales to tickle your funny bones, a good place to look is the Thurber Prize, an annual award for humor writing. The award has been around since 1997, and you can find its list of past winners and finalists on the Thurber House website.

The prize's namesake is 20th century humorist James Thurber, whose works spanned commentary, fiction, children's literature, "New York" magazine cartoons and short stories, including perhaps the story he's best known for, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." In our library you can find "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" in The Greatest American Short Stories: Twenty classics of our heritage (SSC GREATEST) as well as Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (818.02 RUSSELL). Ben Stiller is directing and starring in a movie version of the story, too, that's set to come out this Christmas.

Below are the finalists and winner of this year's Thurber Prize.

Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad
By Dan Levin
814.6 ZEVIN

Hope, A Tragedy
By Shalom Auslander

By Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel
FIC BARRY (also on audiobook, AD FIC BARRY)

Londoners by Craig Taylor

Photo by Filippo Diotalevi available through a Creative Commons license

In keeping with my U.K. kick started with Robert Galbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling, which features a careworn private eye in London, I mixed in the nonfiction book Londoners: The days and nights of London now—as told by those who love it, hate it, live it, left it, and long for it (942.1086 TAYLOR).

Over the course of five years, author Craig Taylor — a Canadian who moved to London — collected stories from 200 people in or from his adopted city. Taylor gives us the best bits — and they are wonderful; each one a gem in its own right — in Londoners, a pastiche of anecdotes and reflections about what make this city of 8.5 million people one of the world's most revered. Take, for instance, the ruminations of Peter Rees, a planning officer for the City of London:
"You can't pull out a sheet of paper and say how London should work. London already does work. It works in a way none of us understand. It's so complex, so multilayered, so interrelated with places around the world and activities within itself. You have to look at how you can manage London, not plan it."
He presents a wonderfully well-rounded amalgam of views, including that of current and former Londoners, tourists, laborers, professionals and more. Most are labeled in the table of contents with what they do for a living; some are simply labeled "Londoner."

There's an entire section alone dedicated to London's famously tough housing market. Taylor fills that section with narratives from an estate agent, property owner, property seeker, squatter, and longtime residents. In another interview, Taylor proves his dedication by following around market trader in the wee hours of the morning as the trader sorts out meat and produce purchases for his clients.

Taylor keeps his narration to a minimum, letting his interviewees' words shine through in the same vein as Studs Terkel's oral histories. Indeed, such is Taylor's skill at drawing out his subjects' thoughts that the memories they share are laced with color, humor and insight. Through their eyes, we explore issues of race, class, wealth and geography. We see the spectrum of emotions that London elicits: nostalgia, resentment, yearning, exhaustion.

Viewed as a whole, the reader begins to get a sense that living in London is a particular challenge and to overcome that challenge means simply to be living in London. The city is a cauldron of roiling energy coupled with ancient history, a place that offers rough edges and shiny corners that both repulse and beckon. Opines interviewee Michael Linington, a man leaving London:
The funny thing about London is how everything feels like it's trying to push you out. So all these people are trying to get in, but the city itself and the infrastructures that have been created and the social issues, everything is trying to push you straight back out. Everyone's trying to fight to get into the middle, but then there's something in the middle that's just trying to force everyone out and it's saying, you've got to earn your place.
This book will ring true with anyone who's dared brave London long enough to live there for any length of time. It's also perfect for armchair travelers who wish to see the grit, the workaday and the fascinatingly prosaic behind the veil of London's sheen and reputation.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wars of the Roses Fiction and Non-Fiction

With all of the interest in the HBO series A Game of Thrones (based on the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin), and the Tudors and Borgias series on Showtime, other networks are also creating their own shows of political intrigue and royal rowdiness. The cable network, Starz, recently released a series, The White Queen, based on The Cousin's War series by Philippa Gregory, and the show was first aired in August and will be released in ten episodes.

The Cousin's War series covers the turbulent time in Great Britain's history called The Wars of the Roses, beginning with the rule of Richard II in 1377 and lasting until the death of Richard III in 1485 (ending the reign of the Plantagenet line). King Edward III bestowed upon two of his children the dukedoms of Lancaster and York. John of Gaunt became the Duke of Lancaster, and his symbol was the red rose. Edmund of York became the Duke of York, and his symbol was the white rose (which is why the conflict is called The Wars of the Roses) . What followed Edward III's death in 1377 was over a hundred years of backstabbing (some quite literally), assassinations, forced abdications, political maneuverings, revolts, battles, and lots of bickering over which king, and therefore which "rose," would rule England.

Philppa Gregory looks at this time of conflict through the eyes of three women that were important to the period: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville. Elizabeth Woodville became the wife of King Edward IV in 1464, and she was the mother of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the two little boys that were murdered in the Tower of London for Richard III's access to the throne. Margaret Beaufort was the mother of Henry VII (the beginning of the Tudor line) and a member of the Lancaster family. Anne Neville was the daughter of "The Kingmaker," Richard Neville, and the wife of Richard III.

The order of Philippa Gregory's series:

The Cousin's War Series (found under FIC GREGORY)
The White Queen
The Red Queen (also in audio)
The Lady of the Rivers (also in large print and audio)
The Kingmaker's Daughter (also in audio)
The White Princess (also in audio)

If you are interested in reading more about The Wars of the Roses, here are some other fiction and non-fiction books that we have on the subject:


The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Stolen Crown: It Was a Secret Marriage...One That Forever Changed the Fate of England by Susan Higgenbotham

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith

 The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses by Robert Louis Stevenson  (also in audio)

The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth


942.04 WARS
The Wars of the Roses by Elizabeth M. Hallam

942.04 WEIR
The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir

942.040922 GREGORY
The Women of The Cousin's War: The Duchess, the Queen, and The King's Mother by Philppa Gregory

942.0409252 GRISTWOO
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

By now, you most likely know that Robert Galbraith, author of the mystery The Cuckoo's Calling (FIC GALBRAIT, also on ebook), is actually J.K. Rowling, mega-selling author and creator of the Harry Potter world.

As an unabashed Hogwarts fan, I knew I immediately had to give The Cuckoo's Calling a try. Having read her first foray into adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy, I admire Rowling for tackling such vastly different types of stories from her Harry Potter saga. While I did not enjoy The Casual Vacancy — it was peopled by characters too petty and unpleasant to care about any of them — Rowling certainly fashioned a story that shared very little with her previous works except perhaps her language.

In The Cuckoo's Calling, even the language has changed; you'd never know it was written by Rowling if not for her having been outed as its author. What it does feature, however, is Rowling's flair for complex, meticulous plotting. In Harry Potter she had the luxury of drawing her grand plan out over the course of seven books, in The Cuckoo's Calling, she nimbly compresses that into a single, tautly-told tale.

Several months have passed since the paparazzi-plagued model Lula Landry turned up dead in the snow, having apparently fallen from the balcony of her third-story London flat. That's when the brilliantly named but imminently broke private investigator Cormoran Strike finds himself sitting across from Lula's brother, who wants him to look into her death. The brother believes that Lula's death, though ruled a suicide, was actually murder. He hires Strike to determine the truth.

Strike, a former military policeman, is aided in his inquiry by the stalwart Robin, a temp secretary assigned to his office for the time being. The two greatest pleasures of this story are watching Strike sussing out fact from fiction and the burgeoning friendship between the gumshoe and his secretary, who rapidly rises to the role of trusty sidekick.

Throughout the investigation, Strike grapples with a host of personal issues, including his dwindling bank account, a recent break-up with his long-time girlfriend and the difficulties of maneuvering London wearing a prosthetic leg. Even with all those distractions, he impresses with his determined focus and his clever way of reading between the lines of witness statements.

Admittedly, I found the revealed culprit to be somewhat predictable but it was nevertheless fascinating to watch Rowling's stellar plotting skills. She plants a subtle path of breadcrumbs that we can see in bits and pieces. But we truly need Strike's help to see them all and make sense of them. Understanding the many gears of the grand scheme keeps you reading to the end, but it's the characters of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott who will have you looking forward to Rowling's next installment.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Anne Moody tells her life from when she was small to age 24, growing up in rural Mississippi. The book was published in 1968, when she was 28.  Online, you can only see a few pictures of her, because since then she has kept herself out of the limelight.  Her story made an enormous impact on the country at the time, particularly among educated whites who were ignorant of what sort of life blacks were living at that time – whether in the Northern cities or in Mississippi where Anne grew up.  Smart, determined to be educated and to make something of herself, Anne lived in a world where “her kind” was ostracized from opportunity and kept so by the threat of violence and reprisal against anyone trying to change their world. 

Anne early on saw the dilemma her race was chained to, and she did try to walk the line - to survive but to keep her soul intact.   While working for white women, some tried to break her spirit, while others gave her the nurturing she needed.  She had to make hard decisions about where to go and who to live with.   She attended college only to realize there were no jobs waiting for her – unless she wanted to be a teacher and support the “separate but equal” establishment that helped ensure blacks’ secondary status.

In the end, there was the Movement.  Anne joined the NCAAP in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was going to college.  She writes stirringly of the hard work and dedication shown by many like herself, and by people who had come down to the South to try and register blacks to vote.  But they were living with fear.  Being followed by cars out on country dirt roads at night, men busting into their houses looking for them, groups of KKK’s burning houses - houses with children inside.  Anne breaks up her time with the Movement by going and living with relatives in New Orleans, where she waitresses and tries to forget the oppression that exists in Southern rural areas. 

Ironically enough, it was when she started writing her story that Anne felt the impossibility of reversing people’s views and ever eradicating racism.  When she heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington, she didn’t share his exultation.  Now, over 40 years later, blacks and whites do work and attend school together, but inequalities persist.  Many young blacks don’t learn how to handle expectations of a generic workplace – they are tuned into their inner culture, not getting fitted to balance the demands of the outside world with their own need for affirmation.  Almost all teens have a time of breaking away and experimenting with what they want, what they think is important.  But some young people have an easier way back - back to school, to college, to jobs that can get you somewhere.

Why is her book still important?  Because she makes it real.  She doesn’t hide her feelings - whether it’s about her absent father, having white teachers for the first time in college, meeting gay people in the workplace, or her mother being hostile to her because Anne is trying to fight this thing, this life. 

I’m glad we have the book in our library, and I recommend it to everyone.  I wish she would tell the rest of her story.   You can access the catalog record here.