Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mike can't get enough of Sherlock Holmes

In my quest to read genres new to me, I've tried tackling mysteries. They're an untapped vein of literature that has sadly remained outside of my purview for some time--and for those of you who are die-hard mystery fans (like half of all of our patrons) you're probably shaking your head, wondering if you should even bother reading further. Do not despair however, because I am a convert, and have been baptized by one of the best--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

There are a ton of great ways to get into the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick/chronicler, Dr. James Watson. For instance, if you're taking a long drive or making a daily commute, you can't go wrong by listening to the BBC Radio dramatizations. Produced with a full cast, the performance has a wonderful radio nostalgia feel about it; they performed every work in the series but you might try cutting your teeth on the first volume of the Sherlock Holmes Essentials, recently released.

If you want to listen to the work as it was originally written, however, you can't go wrong with a reading by Simon Prebble. Check out The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which features some of the notable moments in Sherlock Holmes' career, such as an instance when he was incorrect about his deductions (and that's not his tax deductions).

Or would you rather watch something on the telly? Look no further than the recently produced Sherlock series on BBC. This modern re-envisioning of the world's greatest detective is as dark as it is witty and was an absolute hit; the series won a BAFTA for "best drama series" and Martin Freeman, who portrayed Dr. Watson for the series, garnered another one for his supporting role.

And if you're a novitiate in the Church of Holmes, you'll of course need to peruse the originals. Reading a copy of the two-volume Annotated Sherlock Holmes will make you better informed than almost any Holmes expert and will look handsome on the bookshelf, which you can admire while thoughtfully smoking a pipe or playing your violin.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sue Recommends Sixth Man by David Balcacci

Baldacci pens a must read with his new suspense novel, Sixth Man. Although the characters, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, have appeared in four of his earlier thrillers, you may pick this up without reading the others. King and Maxwell have left the Secret Service behind and are embarking on a new career as private investigators. Even so, they cannot escape the political conspiracies that were a part of their former lives. I was delighted at the author's ability to keep me guessing on how the story would end. I thought the plotting in this story by Baldacci was extraordinary and this is my favorite King and Maxwell thriller yet.

The title mystified me and I was anxious to find out the connection with the story. It is not revealed until later in the novel.

At first the story appears to be about helping an old friend with the defense of a former IRS employee who has been accused of multiple murders, 6 to be precise. When the pair find their friend murdered, they become highly motivated to find out who is trying to prevent the accused, Edgar Roy, from being having a fair trial. Finding what Roy was actually doing for the government and national security will set them on a treacherous journey that may cost them their lives as well.

For those who prefer the audio version of the book, I did not enjoy Orlagh Cassidy's reading of the female characters but thought Ron McLarty did a good job. However, neither one showed a great passion for the story. See what you think, but don't let the readers keep you from enjoying this suspenseful read. Request it today!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rob is SURE You'll Like Springsteen's Seeger Sessions

I don't know why, but I've never been a Bruce Springsteen fan. I blame my age. I grew up with 60s rock and and I've been slow to appreciate any rock music produced after say, 1972. And unfortunately for Bruce, his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park NJ came out in 1973. I knew that Springsteen had recorded an album of Pete Seeger's folk songs (We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions) and I was mildly curious, but I somehow never got around to listening to it. But now that I have heard it, I want everyone to have a listen.
Bruce Springsteen got together with a bunch of other musicians at his farm and had a blast putting a rollicking spin on a bunch of traditional folk songs sung by the (now) 92-year-old Pete Seeger. I can pretty much guarantee that you've never heard versions of John Henry, Old Dan Tucker or Pay Me My My Money Down like this. With trumpet, trombone, tuba and some great drumming, you'd never know that these songs spent their whole lives in the company of guitar, banjo and fiddle! Springsteen et al have a lot of fun in playing the songs and their enthusiasm helps make the album a lot of fun to listen to.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

She Walks in Beauty : A Woman's Journey Through Poems

Caroline Kennedy's collection of contemporary and classic poetry represent the passages in a woman's life. A personal tribute to the human experience, Kennedy is inspired by her own life as she offers poetry to express the joys and challenges of being a woman. Read by Jane Alexander, Hope Davis and others, She Walks in Beauty is a winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award, 2011.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Megan recommends: In the Loop

Do you ever feel like politics is just all spin? Then you're sure to laugh all the way through the film In the Loop, a satire on politics in Britain and the United States. The British Prime Minister is being pressured to support the American presence in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he just gave a radio interview where he stated that war was "unforeseeable." How do casual comments become major news stories? And what do you do with a political figure who just can't seem to say what he's supposed to?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dread Empire's Fall

The Praxis : Dread Empire's Fall
Walter J. Williams

All will must bend to the perfect truth of The Praxis.

For millennia, the Shaa have subjugated the universe, forcing the myriad sentient races to bow to their joyless tyranny. But the Shaa will soon be no more. The dread empire is in its rapidly fading twilight, and with its impending fall comes the promise of a new galactic order . . . and bloody chaos.

A young Terran naval officer marked by his lowly birth, Lt. Gareth Martinez is the first to recognize the insidious plot of the Naxid -- the powerful, warlike insectoid society that was enslaved before all others -- to replace the masters' despotic rule with their own. Barely escaping a swarming surprise attack, Martinez and Caroline Sula, a pilot whose beautiful face conceals a deadly secret, are now the last hope for freedom for every being who ever languished in Shaa chains -- as the interstellar battle begins against a merciless foe whose only perfect truth is annihilation.

A good fun space opera, "the Praxis" is not going to dazzle you with any new scientific ideas. It's just well done classic space opera without cookie cutter characters.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rob recommends Woody Guthrie: American Radical

To the extent that Woody Guthrie is remembered today, we think of This Land Is Your Land, Oklahoma Hills, Roll On Columbia or any number of children’s songs. We may recall that Bob Dylan was strongly influenced by Guthrie (or that Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Emmylou Harris, Wilco, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg and Steve Earle acknowledge Woody Guthrie’s influence). Will Kaufman in Woody Guthrie: American Radical makes the case that the soft, fuzzy, na├»ve Okie version of Guthrie, balladeer of Americana, is largely a myth, created partly by publicists and part by the musician himself. In reality Woody was a true radical who never stopped thinking about or writing about the downtrodden—the migrants, the unemployed, the dispossessed, small farmers, the industrial workers, the poor. As much he sympathized with the lower classes, he despised the rich—the bosses, the owners, the elite, the power brokers and politicians. He wanted his songs to serve as weapons in all the causes he fervently believed in, perhaps most importantly the union struggle.

The author has obviously done his homework. He traces Guthrie’s activism from his early years scratching out a living to his final years hospitalized with Huntington’s Chorea. Song lyrics (and other writings) are quoted prolifically. That Kaufman’s Guthrie is a little more committed, more sophisticated and maybe more strident than his popular image, doesn’t imply any lack of enthusiasm for the subject by his author. He’s clearly a fan. He’s a fan of the radical Woody Guthrie, warts and all. As Phil Ochs sang in his song about Woody: “Oh why sing the songs and forget about the aim? He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same?”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deb recommends listening to Restless by William Boyd

Rosamund Pike, who you may remember from the films Die Another Day, An Education and Pride and Prejudice, is a delight to the ears as she narrates William Boyd's ninth novel. An espionage thriller, Restless moves back and forth from the British countryside and romantic Edinburgh to prewar Paris.While the book spans pre World War II to the present day, Restless focuses on a mother/daughter relationship in which secret propaganda, spydom and hidden identities are shockingly revealed.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Megan recommends: The Bascombe Novels

The Bascombe Novels by Richard Ford

3 books in one here. It's the trilogy by Richard Ford about Frank Bascombe, whom I like to describe as a version John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom for the turn of the century. Ford won the Pulitzer Prize for the second novel in this series, Independence Day.