Wednesdays @ West: Literatea, August Edition


This morning was the August meeting of Literatea.  The tea of the month was iced white tea with strawberries.  For a list of this month’s highlighted books, check out the August Newsletter.

Need even more suggestions?  Here’s what the lovely bibliophiles of Literatea have been reading and talking about:

invisiblecityInvisible City by Julia Dahl



languageflowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh



inventionofwingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd




shoemakersThe Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani




queenofthebigtimeThe Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani




flowersofthefieldFlowers of the Field by Sarah Harrison




pillarsoftheearthPillars of the Earth by Ken Follett




worldwithoutendWorld Without End by Ken Follett




bostongirlThe Boston Girl by Anita Diamant




haroldfryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

iampilgrimI am Pilgrim: a thriller by Terry Hayes




alliloveandknoAll I Love and Know by Judith Frank




mygrandfatherwouldhaveshotmeMy Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege




girlsofatomiccityThe Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan




silverstarThe Silver Star by Jeanette Walls

Card Catalog Display: For the Love of Dogs

Dog lovers, rejoice: this month’s card catalog display is all about man’s best friend. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows that the bond is like no other. Dogs become our most loyal and trustworthy friends, our confidantes, our family. Owning a dog can bring so much comfort and joy to a person, and truly complete a family. You give them a happy home, and in return they’ll give you endless love. A dog will not complain or talk back, and they will listen without judgment or interruption. And they’re always happy to see you – whether you’ve been gone for ten minutes or two weeks.

The Dog Days of Summer

Dogs have this incredible ability to help humans both emotionally and physically. There are stories from September 11 of guide dogs leading their blind owners down tens of flights of stairs in the World Trade Center as the buildings collapsed. I’ve seen families with children who suffer from seizures who own service dogs that alert both the child and parents of seizures before they occur. Comfort dogs visit hospitals and rehabilitation centers to provide hope and support to patients – in fact, Massachusetts’ first comfort dog, Lydia, visited the West Branch this past winter. There are also search and rescue dogs who are able to find missing people or victims of natural disasters in ways humans cannot, and there are police and military dogs who help protect us.

After a bad day at work, coming home to a dog is the best. They shower you with love, always seem to know how you’re feeling, and have this innate desire to make you happy. Even after they eat your new shoes or poop on the expensive carpet, they pull out those puppy-dog-eyes and look so guilty and remorseful that it’s hard to stay upset long. The love of a dog is undying and pure in a way humans can only try to emulate. Personally knowing a dog’s love, it’s not surprising that so much literature exists on dogs.

These are just a few of my favorite rescue tales, but there are also mysteries about dogs, such as those by Shannon Conant or David Rosenfelt, and various memoirs by dog owners such as the touching tale of Oogy, or the popular book-to-movie Marley and Me.


The Rescue at Dead Dog Beach by Stephen McGarva

Adrenaline junkie moved with his wife to Puerto Rico in search of adventure and a break from their every-day life at home. While relaxing at a beach called Playa Lucia, McGarva finds an emaciated, bloody dog who he initially believes is dead, until the dog starts wagging his tail. In his mission to rescue this pup, he learns that the beautiful Playa Lucia, also known as “Dead Dog Beach” to the locals, is a popular place to dump unwanted dogs, or satos. McGarva begins a two year journey in which he would come to save hundreds of dogs, all while putting his marriage, sanity, and life at risk. Inspirational yet heartbreaking and occasionally morbid, this memoir is ideal for any animal lover.

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant

The world was shocked in 2007 to learn that football player Michael Vick was the leader of a dog fighting ring. As Vick’s trial progressed, people questioned what would come of these pitbulls. Many thought the animals should be euthanized, as their brutal upbringing showed they were past rehabilitation – even PETA thought these animals would never be capable of love! Yet the ASPCA and public support saved these dogs, and they went on to live happy, love-filled lives, many in families and one even as therapy dog. This book exposes the horrors of dog fighting, chronicles the lives of these loveable pitbulls, and offers beautiful insights into the power of love and redemption.


Going Home: Finding Peace when Pets Die by Jon Katz

The hardest part of having any pet as a family member is saying goodbye. It’s so unfair that our companions’ lives are so much shorter than our own. I recently lost my chocolate lab, Chewie, who’d been with me since adolescence, and I found it comforting to hear others’ experiences regarding their pets and loss. Katz encourages readers to accept their grief and celebrate the lives of our pets. You’ll find yourself realizing that you gave your dog the best life you could have, that you made the right decisions in the end, and that though your dog isn’t with you any longer, you’ve experienced love and companionship in one of its most innate and beautiful forms. I miss Chewie every day, but I’m so grateful that I got to spend 12 amazing years with such a loving and devoted dog, and proud that his life was one most humans only dream of. If you are grieving the loss of a beloved pet, Katz, a renowned writer on dogs, provides comfort and hope through the stories he shares.


Leaving on a jet plane…

Summer is a time for adventures, both the far-away and the stay-at-home kind.  But this week, beloved patrons, we are talking about airplane travel–not only because so many of you are headed off into the wild blue yonder, but because several of your favorite library’s staff are also headed off on adventures, as well.

I don’t know about you, but I hate airplanes–the smell of them, the constant, droning noise of them, the numbness and boredom that ensues after one has been crammed into those little seats for so long…the delights really are endless.  But there are perks: a wide-open swath of time to read in relatively uninterrupted quiet, especially if you’re like me and downloaded some 50 or 60 books from the NOBLE Overdrive website–because Heavens forbid you should be without a good selection of things to read!  Overdrive also offers audiobook downloads, for those who enjoy listening to a scintillating book on your journey.  Alternatively, you can enjoy a few hours to catch up on a tv show or film without worrying about all those things you should be doing in the real world, 35,000 feet below.

Not only is the library full of stories to take with you on your next adventure, we have a wide selection of items that can best be summed up as “misery loves company”–books and films that deal with the joys and pitfalls of travel that can often make the weariest, footsore traveler feel comparatively fortunate…or, at least grateful that someone else is having just as rotten a time as they are!  So here are some suggestions for those of you thinking about jetting off in these waning months of summer, or for those looking for an excuse to enjoy the pleasures of home during an well-deserved ‘stay-cation’.

2113523Airplane!: A film that gave us some of the most oft-quoted lines in cinematic comedy, this is a perfect film to remind us all of the absurdities involved in plane travel (it’s nice to know some things never change, I suppose).  In this disaster movie spoof, a commercial flight is terrorized by bad fish and an incompetent crew (headed by the delightful Peter Graves).  Surely the only person capable of landing the plane is an ex-pilot afraid to fly. But don’t call him Shirley.  This film was apparently Leslie Nielsen’s first foray into comedy, which gives us another reason to revere it, but no airline other than Aeromexico has ever paid to play it as part of the in-flight entertainment….go figure.

2327858Lost: This probably isn’t the best suggestion for those of you who would rather forgo flying, but it has become the modern definition of the worst-case scenario for air travel.   When Oceanic Airways Flight 815 breaks apart in mid-flight, some 48 survivors are left stranded in a mysterious jungle full of mysterious monsters and miles away from any hope of rescue.  What they endure, and the startling realizations about what has actually happened to them, was the stuff of many TV-addictions during the show’s run.  Say what you will about the series finale, there is little doubt that once you start with this show, you’ll be on tenterhooks until the final scene has played.

3248378Frozen In Time : an epic story of survival, and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II: Again perhaps not for those a bit squeamish about flying, this is nevertheless a fascinating account of a little-known piece of history and a remarkable piece of travel writing.  In 1942, a US cargo plane and the B-17 crew sent to rescue them, crashed into the Greenland ice cap.  When a third rescue party vanished in a storm, the nine man crew of the B-17 were forced to endure for 148 days on the frozen tundra before being rescued by the famed explorer Bernt Balchen.  This book not only tells the harrowing detail of their ordeal. but also recounts the 2012 naval expedition sent to investigate the mystery of the vanished plane, and the secrets still hidden in the Arctic ice.  This is a read for history buffs and adventure-lovers alike, and Mitchell Zuckoff’s engaging writing style keeps the pages turning at a remarkably quick clip.

2248630Four Past Midnight: There are few authors who can make the time pass faster than Stephen King, which makes his books a sure-fire bet for getting through a flight with your sanity intact.  This book of short stories features some gems from this prolific author, including “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, which became the basis for the film starring Johnny Depp.  But it also features “The Langoliers”, a tale about a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston, and the terrifying journey they take when the sleeping passengers awake to find that they are the only souls on board the plane, which is flying on autopilot.  King revels in the fears of childhood in this story, presenting monsters who still lurk in the shadows of our imaginations to plague his travelers–and his readers, as well.

2751225Not Now, Voyager: For centuries, people have been fascinated by travel, from the exploits of Marco Polo to the fate of Amelia Earhart.  In this spellbinding book, Lynne Sharon Schwartz considers the reason behind that fascinating, while contemplating the meaning of journeys in her own life.  This is a marvelously accessible work of philosophy, anthropology, memoir, and travel narrative that offers some heartfelt and stunning insight on why we travel, and how it shapes the lives of travelers, and a sensational read for those suffering with wanderlust, or those looking for an imaginative journey through both time and space.


Whatever you adventures, beloved patrons, be safe, have fun, and bring us back some good stories!

The Romance Garden!

Here is the monthly update from the Romance Readers of your library staff, bringing our love of romance into the light of day, and reveling in that dirt that so helps our minds to grow….




Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader3605540

I am a loyal devotee of the Food Network, especially the shows that allow you to go behind the scenes and see how a restaurant functions, how a kitchen comes together to produce culinary masterpieces, or delicious comfort food.  Also, I like eating things.  Especially scrumptious things.  So, naturally, I am also drawn to any romances that feature chefs, cooking, and food in general.  And it doesn’t get much spicier, or sweet, than Kate Meader’s Hot in the Kitchen series.

Each of the three books in this series has a good deal to recommend it, but I was particularly fond of the third book, Hot and Bothered, featuring two loyal best friends who find a way to become even more together.  Wine bar owner Taddeo DeLuca and Jules Kilroy have been best friends since Jules ran away from London to be with her family in Chicago after finding out she was pregnant two years previously.  Tad may enjoy plenty of female attention, but after losing both his parents, he knows how important friendship is–and how unworthy he is of Jules.  But when her friends convince Jules to join an online dating site in order to meet some new people, Tad realizes that he can’t bear the idea of anyone else romancing Jules, or helping to raise her son, Evan.  But can he convince her–and himself–that they can be more together?

I find the best-friends-to-lovers trope a particularly tricky one.  It’s a very difficult line to cross, and not all authors pull it off well.  Meader is an exception, however.  She embraces the awkwardness and difficult of Jules’ relationship with Tad, while still reveling in those moments where everything works perfectly.  This isn’t an easy road for either character.  Jules has been hurt before, not only by her son’s father, but also by Tad, who is dealing with the weight of his own guilt and self-doubt about being the man Jules deserves.  At the heart of their relationship, however, is a world of respect, trust, and vulnerability that makes their eventual revelations that much more powerful.  The fact that their friendship remains tantamount to this story is what makes the romance so meaningful.

Also, there is food.  And wine.  This is another series to which you will want to bring plenty of fortifying snacks.  Bon appetit, readers!


jacketDevil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens

Being relatively new to the world of romance novels, I decided to take a look at some lists of classics of the genre. In my search, I stumbled on romance writer Sarah MacLean’s Read More Romance page, and couldn’t resist her recommendation of Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens.

Devil’s Bride is the first of Laurens’ well-known series, The Cynster Novels, which now includes more than 20 books. Through Devil’s story, we’re introduced to the Cynster family, dominated by a group of six elegant, commanding, and completely rakish male cousins known around the ton as The Bar Cynster. The Cynsters are known for pushing society’s standards of acceptable behavior to the limit, but the family is wealthy and powerful, and the men of the Bar Cynster command a sense of respect as much because of as despite their wild behavior. Despite their reputations, above all else, the Cynsters value family, and it’s common knowledge that the only thing Cynster men fear is the strong-willed group of Cynster wives. In the Cynster novels, Laurens tells the stories of each man meeting his match.

At the head of the Cynster clan stands Devil, the Duke of St Ives, a man who earned his ominous nickname as a child and has never been called anything else by anyone but his mother ever since. At the opening of the novel, when forced to take shelter from an impending storm, Devil Cynster and Honoria Prudence Anstruther-Wetherby find themselves caught in a compromising situation. Having spent the night together in an abandoned cottage, the only acceptable thing for them to do is get married. For his part, Devil knew Honoria would be his wife the moment he saw her, so he is eager to do the right thing. However, Honoria cares little for society’s opinion of her, and has no desire to get married to anyone let alone a man she has just met. Before they can be together, Honoria must come to terms with a great loss in her past, and Devil must reconcile his uncomfortable feelings for, and prove himself to, the woman he wants to be his duchess. Devil’s Bride is a beautifully developed romance that explores the growth of two strong-willed characters, clearly meant for each other.


Saturdays @ the South: Read it before you see it? That is the question.

read_or_watchI spent a lovely and engaging seven weeks watching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on BBC America, the adaptation of Susannah Clarke’s tome set in a magic-infused England that, sadly, ended last Saturday. The show was fantastic; magical, funny and suspenseful in all the right places. This mini-series was an unusual experience for me because I hadn’t read the book prior to watching the show. I remember remarking how it was nice to see something like this and be able to take it in fairly unprejudiced. I knew little about the book except for it’s existence and that the premise intrigued me so when I watched the series, I was able to take it in with fresh eyes and experience the twists and turns (and there were plenty!) with surprise. I plan to read the book (it’s been on my to-read list for a while now) but I’m wondering just how much my reading of the book will be affected by what I’ve seen.

When I read the book before seeing the movie, my view of the movie is definitely colored by what I’ve read. Recently, I was eager to see Still Alice because, despite the utterly sad and somewhat helpless feeling it left me with, Lisa Genova’s book was richly detailed, well-researched and truly moved me. I felt for Alice and through her I felt that I could somewhat better comprehend the cloud people with Alzheimer’s live in. I wondered as I read the book, how this-or-that detail would come across in the movie and whether or not certain scenes would translate onto film the way they did in my head. So I was sorely disappointed when many of the details that I thought gave the story so much of its emotional impact were left out of the movie entirely. This happens a lot with me (and I have it on good authority that it happens to some of my friends, too, so at least I’m in good company) but more often with books than with movies, I get emotionally attached to certain parts of the book (or in some cases the entire book) and feel crushed that a part that I loved so much in print was left out or interpreted differently.

There’s also the flip side, where reading a book after seeing the movie can leave me confused or find it difficult to get into the book. I had this experience with Wicked. Before you check the catalog, there’s no movie version (yet… I hear one is in the works) but I saw the musical before I was able to read Gregory Maguire’s fantastic book. I love both the way one might love two children: equally, fervently but with different reasons for each because they are so different themselves. When I picked up the book after seeing the show I completely lost! Maguire’s Wicked, for me is a read-more-than-once book anyway, but the show and book took on different themes, different events. I was confused and frustrated; why couldn’t I plug in some of Stephen Schwartz’s great songs into the text? I eventually appreciated the book for its own beauty and its own story, but it certainly did take me a while.

So there is the great conundrum of book-to-movie (or musical) adaptations. Which to do first: read or watch? And once you choose, how happy are you with your decision? There’s no right or wrong way to read a book (or see a movie for that matter) so there’s no right answer here, but with the host of adaptations coming this fall, which path will you choose? Here are some adaptations coming out this fall and links to their accompanying books. Hopefully, this might help you decide….

3209695Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Riding the success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Charlize Theron stars in this adaptation of one of Flynn’s earlier works. Libby Day witnessed the murder of her family as a young child and testifies against her older brother Ben, but later in life she starts to question what really happened that night.

1945843A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is the first author who introduced me to the wonderful world of travel memoirs and I have him to thank for my go-to “beach reading” genre. This is the book that started it all for me. I read it in public and had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud and disturbing everyone. Several times. A middle-aged family man tries to find himself and decides to trek the Appalachian Trail with the only friend crazy enough to go with him. Naturally, hilarity ensues; though, this was very likely a case of not-so-funny-when-it-happened…. This adaptation stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

3208730Black Mass by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill

Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch star in this adaptation of the book written  by two former Boston Globe reporters who worked on Whitey Bulger stories since his rise in the 1970s. When John Connolly, who knew Bulger in childhood tries to indoctrinate the king of the Irish mob as an informant for the FBI, the two powers clash; their deal spirals out of control and into drug-dealing, racketeering and murder.

3459381The Martian
 by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first people to walk on Mars, and may well be the first person to die there after his team accidentally leaves him behind on the red planet during a freak storm. He’ll need to use every skill he has in order to survive. This adaptation stars Matt Damon.

1987353In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

During the peak of the whaling boom off of Nantucket, the whaleship The Essex set sail and was sunk 15 months into its voyage by sperm whales who attacked the ship. If this story sounds a bit familiar, it should. This is the real-life encounter that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. Nathaniel Philbrick, author and historian describes what the survivors of the wreck went through in their attempts to survive. The adaptation stars Benjamin Walker and Chris Hemsworth.

Till next week, dear readers, I hope you enjoy whatever you’re reading or watching.

Five Book Friday!

I know I’m going to regret asking this question, but could it get any hotter out there?  Or more humid?  But there is good news, beloved patrons.  The library is air-conditioned, and we are happy for you to come in and cool off for a bit.  And, as an added bonus, you are welcome to find a few books, dvds, audiobooks, and magazines to while away the time.  Here are five books that appeared on our shelves this week for your consideration:

3597942Don’t Go Home It took us a little while to get this book on the shelves, but it comes with some good news for fans of Annie Darling and the Death on Demand series in general–author Carolyn Hart has decided to continue the series past this book (which was originally intended to be the series conclusion)!  In this 25th installment in the series, Annie’s bookstore is scheduled to hold a party for a local author when it is revealed that he modeled many of his characters on his neighbors–and the results were not very complimentary.  But when Annie’s dear friend gets in a fight with the curmudgeonly author right before he turns up dead, can she manage to figure out whom among the many angry locals did this author in? Publisher’s Weekly adored the small-town setting of this mystery, saying “Understated local color and a charming cast of supporting characters will keep Annie’s fans glued to the page.”

3642374Jacob Lawrence : The Migration Series:  In 1941, a twenty-three-year old artist named Jacob Lawrence completed a series of tempura paintings, pairing them with text about the Great Migration (the name given to the mass migration of black Americans from the rural south to the north between 1915 and 1916.  The series itself became a landmark of modern art, as it not only depicted contemporary history, but also a population that had gone underrepresented up to that point.  This book places this artwork in its cultural and historic context, looking not only at the images, but their display and movement in various museums.  Leah Dickerman’s editorship makes this a fascinating work for historians, artists, and students of all ages.

3639542Movie Star By Lizzie PepperThis oddly titled little tome is winning sky-high praise from the likes of VogueUS Today, and Entertainment Weekly for its clever, cheeky observations, and fast-paced, surprising plot.  When Lizzie Pepper’s marriage to a Hollywood mega-star ends, she decides to tell her own side of the story in this book by one of Hollywood’s most prominent ghost writers.  Of Hilary Liftin’s book, the Kirkus Review said “With its sympathetic narrator, suspenseful plot pivots, snappy pace, and dishy details about Hollywood’s inner workings, Liftin’s compelling, highly readable novel is likely to engage even readers who remain blissfully unaware of the tabloid characters who may or may not have inspired it.” (Coughcough-Katie Holmes!-Coughcough)

3643302A Sword For His Lady: Mary Wine is an under-appreciated powerhouse of historic romances, and this newest release shows her at her steamy, creative best.  She pairs a headstrong widow who is willing to sacrifice anything for her independence with a newly-appointed Baron who is charged with defending her land, much to the lady’s chagrin, and keeps the tension and action both high and intense.  RT Book Reviews called this book an “unforgettable love story, replete with sexual tension, historical details and powerful storytelling”, and fans of Highland romances will find plenty to love in Wine’s work.

3639956Armada : A NovelFans of Ernest Cline’s phenomenal Ready Player One–rejoice!  The author’s follow-up book is a worthy successor, and sure to keep fans and new readers alike delighted; Booklist gave it a starred review, saying “Cline once again brings crackling humor and fanboy knowledge to a zesty, crowd-pleasing, countdown-clock, save-the-planet tale “, while the USA Today called it “Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets the Matrix”, which is probably not a combination you’ll ever hear put together again.  Once again, Cline gives us a super teen protagonist named Zach Lightman, but in this tale, Zach sees a flying saucer straight out of his favorite video game hovering outside his school, and soon finds himself enlisted to use his gamer-talent to save the world.  But Zach has read enough science fiction to know that things like this are never as straightforward as they seem….

So there you have it!  Have a lovely, safe, air-conditioned weekend!

Five Reasons to be Super-Excited About the Man Booker Prize


On Wednesday, the Long List of the Man Booker Prize was announced, marking the start of three months of speculation, drama, and bookish excitement.  Though originally an award for British authors, this award is now given for the best book written in English, regardless of the nation of the author or publisher (though it is still judged and awarded in England).  The short list will be announced in September, and the final winner will be announced in October.  For those of you yet to become acquainted with this prize, here are five reasons to be excited about the Man Booker Prize:


1) It’s a book award!  And book awards always mean that a list of fabulous books is to follow.  The Man Booker Prize may tout that it is “the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English”, which, since 1969, has awarded prizes to the likes of Hilary Mantel, Salman Rushdie, and Eleanor Catton, but the truth of the matter is that the Man Booker Prize likes books for the same reason that we do: because these books are incredible, moving, surprising, thought-provoking, insightful, and fundamentally different.

2) It’s a big, dramatic deal.  In September, this list gets whittled down, and the short-listed authors received a £2,500 cash award and a specially-bound copy of their work.  The final winner gets a further £50,000.  And sales of their book are all-but-guaranteed to rise dramatically.  This is a huge social achievement for all the long-listed authors, and a huge boost for their work.

3) It’s a big deal outside of the book world, too.  Once upon a time, I lived near a book-makers shop in London, and throughout the summer and early fall, they took bets on horses…and on books.  The odds changed regularly, and as the short list was announced, there were people outside who were as excited about the books as any other competition out there.  If you don’t believe me, here is the site to track odds against current authors.

4) This year is particularly awesome; out of the thirteen titles listed, seven were written by women.  As we discussed a while back, considering that literary awards tend to overwhelming favor men, this is a pretty nifty fact–and a very hopeful trend.  Additionally, there are seven countries represented, as well (this is the second year that the award has been open to English books published outside Britain and its Commonwealth).  With stories from India, Ireland, Morocco, and the US, among others, and wide range of perspectives offered, this award really represents a huge range of experience and are sure to make the competition that much more interesting.

5) The NOBLE network has copies of (nearly) every book on this long-list for your reading pleasure (some have yet to be released in the US).  Check them out below!

Tom McCarthy: Satin Island

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread

Marilynne Robinson: Lila

Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings

Chigozie Obioma: The Fishermen

Anne Enright: The Green Road

Andrew O’Hagan: The Illuminations

Laila Lalami: The Moor’s Account

Sunjeev Sahota: The Year of the Runaways (Publication Date: March 1, 2016)

Anuradha Roy: Sleeping on Jupiter (Awaiting US publication)

Bill Clegg: Did You Ever Have a Family (Awaiting US publication)

Anna Smaill: The Chimes (Awaiting US publication)

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass