Friday, December 30, 2011

Mike Suggests Marzi

Marzi: A Memoir by Marzena Sowa, illustrated by Sylvain Savoia

The realm of graphic novels has long been a haven for memoirs, starting with Spiegelman's Maus and continuing into the present with greats such as Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and David B.'s Epileptic. Marzena Sowa adds to the list with her memoir about growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Poland. It's a unique view that contrasts the naivete and curiosity of childhood with the harshness of Communism. A must-read, especially if you've enjoyed Guy Deslisle's travelogues from his time spent in totalitarian countries (Pyongyang, Travels in Burma).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Captains of Antiquity

Gabriel expands upon the groundbreaking work of B. H. Lidell-Hart's Great Captains by offering detailed portraits of six great captains of the ancient world who met the challenges of their age and shaped the future of their societies, and civilization itself, through their actions. While all were great military men, with the exception of Caesar Augustus, they were also great political leaders who, in this capacity more often than through their feats of arms, shaped their societies. All were educated men, and all possessed the quality of imaginative reasoning.

Gabriel analyzes the lives of Thutmose III of Egypt, Sargon II of Assyria, Philip II of Macedon, Hannibal of Carthage, Scipio Africanus of Republican Rome, and Caesar Augustus of Imperial Rome for the lessons contemporary leaders, particularly military leaders, can learn.

This is a short and interesting survey of the careers of some of the great captains of the ancient world. B. H. Lidell-Hart’s Great Captains Unveiled is an expansion of an earlier work Great Captains by Theodore A. Dodge. Dodge’s book examines the military leadership of Alexander, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, and Frederick. Lidell-Hart’s book adds Genghis Khan, Sabutai, Saxe, Wallenstein and James Wolfe. Gabriel’s is the more modern analysis in the form of short biographical sketches.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Mayhem in Stockholm: Read Box 21

Who’da thunk it? Would you have guessed that normal everyday Americans would be throwing around names like Dag, Dragan, Jerker, Piet,and Lisbeth. “Yes, I remember when Sven saw Jochum in Kronoberg (or was it Klaipeda?)” Swedish crime fiction is hot. And not just Stieg Larsson and his “Girl Who…” series. There’s Hakan Nesser, Camilla Lackberg, Kjell Ericksson, the venerable Henning Mankell and more every second week. (Just check the Minuteman catalog for the subject “Sweden—Fiction” or keywords “Sweden and mystery.”) Box 21 was written by a Swedish writing duo, one of whom is a journalist, the other an ex-criminal. Roslund and Hellstrom set a gritty noir scene, peopled by sex traffickers, dope addicts, corrupt cops, mob enforcers and a few hardworking detectives, who themselves have demons to fight. Ewert Grens is the senior investigator, a brilliant detective but haunted by the assault decades earlier which left his partner Anni brain-damaged and virtually unresponsive in a nursing home. Grens (a crusty and cranky old fellow) and his team have to deal with multiple crimes involving an abused prostitute, her plans for revenge and the murder of a drug addict by the very same man responsible for Anni’s condition. Box 21 kept me up late reading, and I think it will do the same to you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Megan recommends: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey's second season is going to be shown on PBS in January. Missed the first season and need to catch up? Then it's time to borrow Downton Abbey from the library. Kind of an Upstairs Downstairs mini-series, with lots of romance, subterfuge, scandals, and inheritance complications. The story begins with the sinking of the Titanic and ends with the beginning of World War I. Maggie Smith's character has the best lines -- ever. And if you've ever wondered what happened to Elizabeth McGovern after Ordinary People, you'll be happy to see her here as the family matriarch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sue Recommends V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

If you haven't tired of the alphabet mystery series (she is up to V now) by Sue Grafton, V is for Vengeance is not to miss. If you haven't read A to U, you will still enjoy this latest installment.

As Kinsey Milhone, our fearless PI, is innocently buying underwear, she witnesses a shoplifting crime. Little did she realize that being a good citizen and reporting the crime would result in the thief's death and pull her into the world of organized crime. Kinsey's vexing attitude and smart alec tongue keep the tension alive.

Lots of action and twists along the way for those who are looking for a good read on a cold winter's evening.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Peggy Recommends: The Children's Hour (DVD)

The Children’s Hour (DVD)

I gave this classic film a second look recently and was glad I did. Based on a 1934 play by Lillian Hellman and brought to film by the great William Wyler, this movie was banned in Boston in 1961. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine shine as two long-time friends who run a boarding school for girls. Their quiet world collapses when a spoiled bully in the school spreads the gossip that Hepburn and MacLaine are lovers. Supported by James Garner and Fay Bainter, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, this film shines with something we gotten used to living without—actual acting. No gizmos, special effects or flashbacks. The whole story is told in the script and in the actresses and actors faces. Depending on your age, you’ll remember the fear, disgust, and venom depicted here that was directed toward homosexuals or you’ll be profoundly grateful that you don’t, and that we’ve traveled such a long way since. PM

Peggy Recommends: Boston Irish by Edward Delaney

A cursory browse of the Boston Globe review Boston Irish by Edward Delaney intrigued me enough to put it on my “remember-to-read” list. Southie, tough Irish characters, corruption, feuds, the Catholic Church, all sounded to me like an interesting, but perhaps predictable mix. I was more than surprised to be deeply drawn into this complex novel and its characters that inhabit the late 1990s world of South Boston and the widening scandal of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. The towns of Wellesley, Needham, Newton, Brookline and Milton get nods as do Boston College, Cardinal Law, and the Chancery. I felt I entered into the lives, and more importantly into the minds, of this interlocking set of characters, and particularly into the minds of the most unappealing ones. There are few books that have done that for me. Don’t miss this dark but stunning novel. PM

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mike's going to let Lev do the talking

If you've stopped by the reference desk and asked me for a good fantasy book to read, or told me that you've enjoyed Harry Potter but were looking for something more adult, or even said that you don't like fantasy for one reason or another, then chances are I sent you home with Lev Grossman's The Magicians. And if you haven't yet read it yet, then you have to do so--especially since it's one of the rare series where the sequel is even better than the first title.

Well, this post isn't about the book so much as the author, who just happens to also be the book critic at Time Magazine. Taking advantage of the lack of books published before Christmas he looks forward to books to be published in the new year, naming seven that he's looking forward to in 2012; and I have to admit I'm a very bad librarian because I only recognized one name on the list (the National Book Award finalist and difficult-to-pronounce Paolo Bacigalupi). Regardless of my ignorance, I've made an early New Year's resolution and am planning to pick up two or three on this list and, for those of you who will be looking to relax after the hectic times and overbearing family encountered during the holiday season, I'd suggest you put a couple of these titles on hold . . .

Memories of Ice

Memorie of Ice
By Erikson, Steven
2006-08 - Forge
9780765348807 Check Our Catalog

A terrifying new empire: the Pannion Domin has appeared on the continent of Genabackis. Like a tide of corrupted blood, it seethes across the land, devouring all in its path. For it would seem something altogether darker and more malign threatens this world. Rumors abound that the Crippled God is now unchained and intent on a terrible revenge.

This is the third book in Erikson's 10 volume Malazan book of the Fallen series. Each volume is mostly self-contained although many plot lines are going on at once. Epic fantasy full of gods, elder races, magic, and huge battles. Erikson's work is often compared to J. R. R. Matins, each has plots within plots.