Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Click on the Resources for Book Groups section on our web site. The information there will be helpful to anyone who would like to join a group or start up one of their own. We also invite you to attend a Library book group meeting. WFL Book Group members read an assigned title and gather together one Monday a month at the Main Library for discussion. If you prefer to choose your own reading, the Hills Branch Book Chat is an informal gathering where readers share advice on what to read next. For more information on all of the above, please call the Reference Department or check the WFL calendar of events. Hope to see you in the New Year!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
While the topic of Henry VIII's lawyer and later chief minister, who engineered the king's first divorce and later marriage to Anne Boleyn, seemed unlikely to catch my attention, I decided to give it a try since it had won the Man Booker Prize. While the book will not appeal to all, it will certainly catch the attention of people who enjoy historical fiction, especially those who enjoy Tudor England, which has its fair share of historical fiction devoted to it.
Mantel casts Thomas Cromwell as a man far more human than his contemporaries; in religious views, in the treatment of his family, and in taking on countless cast-off children, orphans, and other unwanted individuals. Set against Cromwell is Thomas More; who denied the legality of Henry VIII's dissolved marriage brought about by Cromwell, treats his family with the same asceticism he treats his person, but who shares with Cromwell the fate of the executioner's chopping block.
Wolf Hall is largely a character-driven novel because, with personalities like these, it would be hard to imagine it otherwise--after all, it deals with kings, queens, bishops, and courtiers who are all looking out for number one. Perhaps that's why it's so difficult to watch as they go, one by one, to the executioner--or will, when Mantel concludes the tale in her promised sequel.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I was listening to WGBH today and happened upon an interview with Alan Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz is a wildlife biologist who has made it his mission to create sanctuaries for jaguars, tigers and other endangered animals. In the interview Rabinowitz talked about being unable, as a child, to talk to humans without a severe stutter. Animals, though were a different story. He’d talk quite fluently to real and imaginary animals. He attributed his interest in wildlife conservation to a chance conversation with a jaguar in the Bronx Zoo. Rabinowitz has since gained world renown for his extraordinary efforts on behalf of the big cats and for working in some of the world’s most dangerous places. I read his first book, Jaguar: Struggle and Triumph in the Jungles of Belize, and was impressed (along with most other reviewers) with the author’s ability and willingness to weave together his personal story, the nitty gritty of the fieldwork and the larger environmental issues. His next books, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail and Beyond the Last Village, have been similarly well-received.Worth reading for the adventure alone!
[I went to junior high school with Alan, but honestly, I have not seen or spoken with him since, and my decades-old relationship has NOT influenced this review. Besides, since he clobbered me the only time I have ever put on boxing gloves, I might not be disposed toward unwarranted enthusiasm anyway…]
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby
Do you think there are a lot of writers who have one good semi-autobiographical novel in them and that's it? Well, that's what I always thought about Nick Hornby. Until now. My opinion of him as a one-hit wonder has changed with his new novel, Juliet Naked. Cult musician Tucker Crowe vanished from the public eye 20 years ago. Annie lives in a small city in England with her long-time boyfriend Duncan, a self-appointed "Crowe-ologist." Annie and Tucker's lives intersect and nothing is the same afterward. Yes, it's about music and the power of music in relationships, but there's originality to the plot and interesting depth to the characters. Lots of humor too. Give it a try.
Friday, December 11, 2009
What Would Dewey Do? : an Unshelved collection by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
This graphic novel answers the question to life's greatest mystery. What would Dewey do?
Dewey, our protagonist, invites us into the mysterious and often mis-understood world of libraries and their interesting inhabitants the librarian and library patron.
Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum hit the jackpot with their webcomic. Thankfully they had the insight to transform their sequential art into a visually appealing tome.
With plenty of wit and humor Barnes and Ambaum show what life is like behind the public face of every public library. Dewey may work at Mallville's Public Library but he may as well work at YourTown, USA.
Be prepared for lots of laughs with this must read for library fans and staff.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Part fantasy, part horror, and part mystery, Locke & Key has been drawing awards, nominations, and the attention of critics like it's the only game in town. Set in a New England town with the foreboding name of Lovecraft, the Locke family finds itself in the Hill House after a tragedy befalls their family--but the beginnings of that tragedy are, unbeknown to them, at the very house they're seeking refuge in. This has secured its place as my "favorite series of the moment" for at least the next few collected editions in the future.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Like all librarians, I cannot read all of the books that come through our library, so I'm lucky to have a wife who enjoys to read (and has very different tastes than mine)--so I guess it might be best to preface this suggestion as Mike's wife suggests . . . .
If you enjoy memoirs or consider yourself a foodie, Bruni's book is sure to appeal to you. As a young man and much later into his life, Frank Bruni struggled with over-eating and bulemia--so it comes as a morbid irony when he's tapped by the New York Times to become their food critic, a highly coveted position for foodies that leads to eating almost every meal out, seven days a week. Written with a deft hand and refreshing honesty and insight, Bruni's memoir goes beyond the run-of-the-mill addict memoirs. I'm betting you'll see this on a lot of "best of" lists for 2009.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
You don’t have to be a machinist or woodworker or craftsman of any kind to appreciate Archie’s Way. Archie was a master of machines and tools, a throwback to an earlier age when people (men mostly) knew the innards of everyday devices. But Archie knew more than most; he was the northern Wisconsin go-to guy for that tricky lathe operation or a .00001 inch tolerance in an engine part. The author, Richard Probert was a music teacher with a yearning to be a part of that old way of being, when he met Archie. This is the story of a developing friendship between the two men and in it an homage to fine craftsmanship. [If you like the book, and are interested in the fate of craftsmanship in the 21st century, try also Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford or The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.}
Monday, November 23, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Why the Allies Won
In hindsight many feel that the Allies victory in World War II was inevitable. There is a commonly held assumption that the Axis states were beaten in World War II by the sheer weight of Allied material strength. Another assumption, that Germany, Japan and Italy, made fundamental mistakes in the war, not the least of which was biting off more than they could chew in fighting Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union together.
Overy disputes these assumptions about the war and shows readers how the Allied victory over Germany in 1945 was not inevitable. He recounts how the Allies managed to regain military superiority only after a series of extremely decisive military campaigns. Overy demonstrates that the outcome of the war had not just a material explanation but also important moral and political causes.
Monday, November 9, 2009
In addition to the fantastic actors, the writing duo of David Simon and Ed Burns is what makes this show so great. David Simon is a journalist and author, having written two books about crime in Baltimore. The first book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was written while Simon was embedded with the Baltimore homicide detective unit, and turned into a show by the same name on NBC. His second book, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, was co-authored with Ed Burns (a 20-year veteran of the homicide unit and later public school teacher) and followed a family of four in West Baltimore whose promising lives had been devastated by heroin addiction and trade. The Corner was also picked up by HBO and turned into a miniseries, directed by Charles S. Dutton and is every bit as heartbreaking as the book. It might be best to watch it after The Wire, because you'll get a kick out of watching the same actors who portrayed hardcore police detectives from The Wire playing junkies in The Corner.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
George Gerfaut is a disaffected executive salesman, distanced from his wife and children, with a fondness only for his nightly glasses of scotch. He's certainly not the most lovable of men, but not the kind of guy who would have hitmen on his trail--at least not until he helps a wounded motorist he finds in a car wreck. This is another fantastic example of the crime noir genre that's popping up in graphic novels; others include Parker: The Hunter, Miss Don't Touch Me, and Sin City. West Coast Blues is written and drawn by two individuals considered the top of their field in France: Jacques Tardi has won every major European cartooning award, and Jean-Patrick Manchette was considered one of the best crime novelists.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Not only is that stereotype completely false but what if I told you there is much more to Warcraft than being a highly successful Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game. It has its own mythology of heroes and villains, victory and defeat, romance and heartache.
Legends is the first of a new series sharing these stories. It picks up where the Sunwell Trilogy left off and then continues in new directions.
The separate stories in this manga provide a glimpse into the greater world of Azeroth and serves as a nice starting point for anyone wanting to get their feet wet in the pantheon of Warcraft tales.
The black and white artwork matches the look and feel from the game and other Warcraft properties (comics, collectible card game, and collectible miniatures game) while allowing the artists to shine.
It is a fun read appropriate for older teens and above.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The cast includes many big names--William Shatner as Denny Crane, a role quite the opposite of the serious Captain Kirk; James Spader (remembered as Daniel Jackson from Stargate Atlantis the Movie) as Alan Shore, the brilliant, articulate, rather arrogant but witty lawyer who becomes the cast member you most love to watch; and Candace Bergen (from the TV series Murphy Brown) as Shirley Schmidt, one of the senior partners of Crane, Poole & Schmidt. Many of the cases featured are based on controversial topics of the day.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, but you will finish one season and rush out to find the next season to keep up with the shenanigans of Denny Crane and Alan Shore in this winner of 5 emmy awards out of 25 nominations. Request it today! SH
A must-read for fans of horror, The Haunting of Hill House is one of Shirley Jackson's greatest novels and one of the scariest stories I've read in a long time. Set in a house built with evil intents, the story follows four individuals who are investigating the claim that this is a haunted house. The explorers quickly find they've bitten off far more than they can chew, however, as the house begins to awaken each night and torment them. Best read with your back to a door during a dark evening, with the lights off and the wind lashing at your windows.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Lately I've been watching the new TV series The Good Wife, which is about a public official who is unfaithful to his wife. Watching the show made me remember how much I enjoyed reading The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller. There's a similar theme going on, the betrayed spouse of the politician, and also a little bit more. Two women -- Delia and Meri -- are portrayed at opposite ends of their lives. Delia is the 70ish wife of the philandering senator and Meri is the wife of a charismatic college professor. An excellent read.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
THis is not Kurt Vonnegut at his best. I include it in Picks only because I suspect that I am not the only die-hard fan of Vonnegut's short stories, and we're not likely to see much more from the author (1922-2007). Look at the Birdie gives us 14 previously unpublished stories of the early Kurt Vonnegut--before Sirens of Titan, Welcome to the Monkey House, Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle and the rest of the author's rightfully popular work.
The stories are fun, uncomplicated, easy to read and Vonnegut-ish with middle American characters finding temselves in slightly bizarre circumstances, and the humor alternating light and dark. And if you've never read Kurt Vonnegut, skip this one for now and read one of the above titles.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Set in the modern world, but possessing elements of the fantastic, from vampires to werewolves, to the occasional dragon, Urban Fantasy works provide all the appeal of both traditional fiction coupled with the escapism of fantasy literature.
Don't be fooled into thinking it's all fangs and twilight though. The WFL has books featuring characters ranging from the ironically named Kitty, the werewolf DJ in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville books, to the shape-shifting car mechanic Mercy Thompson in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels.
If you are interested in more fangs and twilight, don't despair! There's plenty of that running around too, starting with Laurell K. Hamilton's best-selling Anita Blake series, up to Mary Janice Davidson's unlikely queen of the vampies, Betsy in the Undead series.
If it's other media you're looking for to pass the time, we've got that too. There's great graphic novels, from Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead series to Neil Gaiman's Sandman chronicles. As for movies look to 30 Days of Night, Let the Right One In, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Nominated for four Eisner awards, Skim is the story of Kimberly "Skim" Keiko Cameron, a Wiccan goth trapped in a private girls' school where nobody shares her sense of humor or outlook on life--with the exception of Lisa Soor, her best friend and fellow Wiccan practitioner. School life is quickly thrown into mourning overdrive when her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself. Cliques--competing to out-grieve each other and out-do each other in supporting Katie--quickly gel, and begin to give Skim unwanted attention as she goes through her own pain of falling in love.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
If you are an audiophile, Scott Brick does a fantastic job of becoming John Corey. I enjoy his style SO much that if I see his name on the book on CD, I will pick it up. I haven't been disappointed yet.
Start your reading pleasure now with
Book 1: Plum Island
Plum Island Audio
Book 2: The Lions Game
The Lions Game Audio
Book 3: Night Fall
Night Fall Audio
Book 4: Wild Fire
Wild Fire Audio
Thursday, October 8, 2009
A Noise of War : Caesar, Pompey, Octavian and the Struggle for Rome
by A. J., Langguth
A very exciting narrative, especially if you like political maneuvering or wonder about how Caesar did it. Langguth was at one time the Saigon bureau chief for the New York Times.You will see the parallels between the United States and Republican Rome. Booklist say's it all.
Langguth's narrative of the fall of the Roman republic begins in 81 B.C. with the confrontation of Julius Caesar and the dictator Sulla and the emergence of Marcus Tullius Cicero. Langguth then proceeds, through a series of progressively graver crises and progressively closer approaches to one-man rule, to the emergence of Caesar as supreme power. The intrigues and wars that followed constitute hardly more than an epilogue, for the republic was dead. Caesar and Cicero are the focal figures in Langguth's version of that story, but a host of other memorable actors are vividly portrayed. Langguth's concern throughout is readability, and this he certainly achieves.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tess loves her 175-year-old tree. It is her companion who provides her with both solace and fun. Sadly, it succumbs to a fierce lightning storm and must be removed for safety.
Tess experiences a myriad of emotions at the loss of her friend. Instead of letting her tree drift quietly out of memory she organizes a celebration of its life and the lives it touched.
This provides the stage for people of many ages to share their fondest memories of when the tree was their friend. This beautifully illustrated book by my hometown children's author/illustrator does an excellent job of relating loss in a way that children can both understand and identify with.
Ok, I know it's now exactly a new book, but I'm never caught up enough on the older books to try to keep up with the new ones. Cormac McCarthy's bestselling book The Road (now a major motion picture, as they say) is worth every dark. apocalyptic thought that will inhabit your bright, cheery mind even after you've set the book down. After some cataclysm (war? meteor? volcano?) the man and his son are heading south to the sea in the vain hope of finding a semblance of civilization. On the road, everything is already scavenged and the few remaining people have devolved into dangerous predators. The author manages to carry off the some big themes without losing the details of a good read. As with all, books-into-movies, read the book first!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Book 1: The Hunger Games
Book 2: Catching Fire
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Hills Branch Library 210 Washington St.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
In one of the most anticipated graphic memoirs of the Fall season, Caldecott Medal award-winning artist David Small relates his childhood spent suffering inexplicable and dreaded silences from his mother, radiology treatments imposed by his father, the madness of his grandmother, and escaping it all through his drawings and artistry. It's a beautifully told tale of heartbreaking family dysfunction reminiscent of Alison Bechtel's Fun Home or Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button. This is a memoir that is sure to be an enduring example in the graphic novel cannon for some time.
Compared to your standard history of science books, which describe individuals, timelines, and advances, Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World takes on the history of the scientific method and casts it as a method of dispelling myths and fictitious notions. Written by one of the foremost thinkers in his arena, Sagan shows how--in our scientifically-advanced world--superstitions, conspiracy theories, and junk science still thrive and sends out the clarion call to develop more awareness through education and application of critical thinking. A discussion between Sagan and his cab driver may strike a cord with many of us, where the cabbie lays out his belief how life on Mars has been proven by the face on the surface on the planet--showing how pervasive our lack of scientific literacy can be.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Dork Covenant comically introduces us to the world of the maligned and misunderstood gamer as exemplified by resident dorks Matt, Igor, Carson, and Ken.
Kovalic's simplified black and white artwork places the emphasis where it belongs, on the characters and the plot. Some graphic novels draw the reader with great inking or smooth layering. Dork Tower offers something much more substantial.
The star of this volume is a gem for Lord of the Rings fans and can be found on pages 67-73. That strip captures the essence of this web-comic turned graphic novel.
Every volume sees growth in the plot and the characters. Kovalic touches on relevant issues from the time whether the invasion of collectible minis, the latest video game system, or being a Mac or PC person.
At the heart of Dork Tower are the characters. We feel their pain and their joy as they suffer unemployment, enter relationships, and support one another as friends should. Dork Tower has a little of everything and it starts with Volume 1: Dork Covenant. Grab it today from the Graphic Novel kiosk on the 2nd floor behind the stairwell. You won't regret it.