Tag Archives: Holidays

Five Book Friday!

Well, Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, dear readers, but for those of you still in a mood to celebrate, fear not!  February still offers plenty of other days to celebrate.  Check out some of these terrific options:

February 17: National Random Acts of Kindness 

February 21: National Sticky Bun Day

February 23: National Toast Day (the food, not the action, so bust out those toasters!)

February 26: National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

February 28: National Chocolate Souffle Day

Best of all, there is never not a good day to celebrate Libraries, so come on it, and check out some of the new titles that have wiggled onto our shelves this week!

How to Stop TimeA you a reader who loved the idea of Fitzgerald’s tale “The Secret Life of Benjamin Button,” but wished it had a less gut-wrenching ending?  Then Matt Haig’s newest tale is for you! Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life. So Tom moves back his to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present. This is a moving, heart-warming romp love story across the ages that has had critics and reviewers raving.  The reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly noted “I am in concert with Haig’s fans as I read the book, turning pages for the story but also stopping to underline passages. I want to remember the lines. I want to read out loud to someone. Nothing like a love that lasts 400 years.”

Feel Free: Zadie Smith has become a treasured voice in fiction, and her gift for storytelling and insight into human nature makes this collection of essays a joy for her fans, and a delightful introduction to new readers.  Arranged into five sections–In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network–and Facebook itself–really about? Why do we love libraries? (YAY LIBRARY LOVE!!) What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” this stellar collection offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life.  Kirkus gave the book a starred review, observing “If only all such thoughts were so cogent and unfailingly humane. The author is honest, often impassioned, always sober…Smith’s observations are timeless.”

GnomonNick Harkaway is an author who revels in the potential of genre fiction, and always ends up making those genres uniquely his own.  On the surface, this book is a dystopian thriller, but beneath the label, this book is a wonderfully though-provoking commentary on our own time and consciousness, as well.  In the world of the story, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history.  When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche.  Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding.  The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.  This is a complex book that will hold appeal to tech fans as well as philosophers.  The British Newspaper The Spectator reveled in its eccentric genius, saying, “This huge sci-fi detective novel of ideas is so eccentric, so audaciously plotted and so completely labyrinthine and bizarre that I had to put it aside more than once to emit Keanu-like ‘Whoahs’ of appreciation. . . It is huge fun. And it will melt your brain. . . Whoah, indeed. I wanted to give it a round of applause.”

A Dangerous Crossing: Fans of Ausma Zehanat Khan, whose investigative duo, Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak first appeared in the wrenching mystery The Unquiet Dead, will be thrilled to hear they are reappearing in this story that blends Khan’s careful plotting and character insight into another very human and immediate tragedy.  Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.  Esa and Rachel arrive in Greece to a shocking scene, witnessing for themselves the massive fallout of the Syrian war in the wretched refugee camps. Tracing Audrey’s last movements, they meet some of the volunteers and refugees―one of whom, Ali, is involved in a search of his own, for a girl whose disappearance may be connected to their investigation.  Working against time, with Interpol at their heels, Esa and Rachel follow a trail that takes them from the beaches of Greece, to the Turkish–Syrian border, and across Europe, reaching even the corridors of power in the Netherlands. Had Audrey been on the edge of a dangerous discovery, hidden at the heart of this darkest of crises―one which ultimately put a target on her own back?  Khan is a writing who knows very well of what she speaks.  As Library Journal pointed out in their review, “Khan’s doctorate and research in international human relations law give credence to her portrayal of a timely situation . . . This is a series well worth investigating.”

A Wedding at Two Love Lane: Fans of Kieran Kramer’s historical romances will find that her delightful writing style and super character development translate beautifully into the contemporary, in this tale of matchmaking and unexpected passion.  Greer Jones has made a real name for herself at the elegant matchmaking agency Two Love Lane. For a lot of reasons―including a past engagement she broke off―practical tech expert Greer is more interested in the business of love than the experience of it, but she can’t help but covet a gorgeous wedding gown that’s the prize in an upcoming cocktail-party contest. In a moment of brazen inspiration, Greer asks a handsome Brit she’s only just met to accompany her to the party. He agrees―and Greer believes her date is a starving artist. Little does she know the truth. . .Ford Smith, as he calls himself, is actually Stanford Elliott Wentworth Smythe, the Eighth Baron of Wickshire. Fresh off a breakup with a money-grubbing siren who deceived him all the way to the altar, Ford has no desire to fall in love―especially with Greer who, like the desired wedding gown, is beautiful but only skin-deep. But soon Ford realizes that there’s more to Greer than meets the eye. Her professionalism is matched only by her passion for life and love. . .and, best of all, she has no idea that he’s to the manor born. Could it be that true love is priceless after all?  Booklist loved this tale, noting that it is  “Brimming with sassy southern charm and an abundance of deliciously dry wit, this debut entry in Kramer’s Two Love Lane series is festive treat.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Re-Reading Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American federal holiday that is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around Dr. King’s birthday (which was January 15).  For those of you who enjoyed a day off in honor of this inspiring and intrepid American hero, we sincerely hoped you enjoyed the day.

But what–or, rather, whom–precisely, are we celebrating when we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  Yes, Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and one of the most visible spokespersons of the American Civil Rights Movement.  He is revered widely for his devotion to the practice of nonviolence and civil disobedience (refusing to recognize unjust laws, such as those preventing Black people from using public facilities and spaces that white people used).  Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we hear recordings of his “I Have A Dream Speech,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, on August 28, 1963.  If you didn’t hear it, then here is a video below:

 

But it’s neither right nor fair to pretend that this speech, that this March, as fundamentally important as it was, is the only reason to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   He was an anti-war activist, a religious leader, an advocate of education reform,  and a vocal advocate for the poor and in favor of class overhaul.  So we wanted to take a moment to provide you with some Library materials that can help you get to know more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the movement he led, his comrades in that movement, and his legacy in American, and, indeed, world history.


In addition, we also highly recommend checking out these online syllabi compiled by the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement: http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com

And this super-comprehensive syllabus, which includes videos, texts, and programs as well as texts, assembled by writer and public educator Candice Benbow: http://www.candicebenbow.com/lemonadesyllabus/

And don’t forget to check out these texts, as well!

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.: After King’s assassination in 1968, King scholar Clayborne Carson pulled together the civil rights leader’s many writings and speeches and organized them into an autobiographical form. It’s an unusual genesis for an autobiography, but one that pays thoughtful homage to the giant of American rhetoric.  These collected documents pay homage to all sides of King’s life, his religious philosophy, his harsh criticisms of American culture as well as his devotion to improving it in non-violent ways.  Anyone looking to understand the true, deep wisdom, anger, determination, and devotion of Dr. King should put this book at the top of their ‘To-Read’ List.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy: Without the work of Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., we would not have a Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In addition to preserving and defending her husband’s legacy, Coretta Scott King was also a fierce, determined activist in her own right, taking on the male hegemony of the Civil Rights Movement and championing civil rights causes including gay rights and AIDS awareness. She has also served as a UN ambassador and played a key role in Nelson Mandela’s election.  This book, told by Coretta Scott King to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, is the story of her early life, of her relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., and of her growth into a brave leader remained devoted to forgiving, nonviolent, and hope, even in the face of terrorism and violent hatred every single day of her life.  Honestly, if you read one book about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s legacy, make it this one.

Dear Martin: Nic Stone’s stunning novel not only offers a powerful portrayal of race relations in the United States today, but also questions the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. King’s nonviolent theories.  Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.  Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.  But when Justyce and his friend find themselves the victims of violent, brutal cruelty, it is up to him to find his way out alone.  The power of Stone’s work isn’t just in dealing with racism in a way that is both insightful and empathetic, but also in recognizing the way that racism as an institution affects People of Color and their relationships.  This isn’t an easy read by any stretch, but it’s a vital and a gripping one.

Jane Crow : the life of Pauli MurrayAt the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, alongside such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, lawyer and activist Pauli Murray stood as an outspoken woman who protested discrimination on the basis of race and sex.  In 1963, she publicly condemned the sexism of the Civil Rights Movement, in her speech “The Negro Woman and the Quest for Equality”.  In 1964, just months after Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” she delivered a speech of her own in Washington, D.C., titled “Jim Crow and Jane Crow.”  In this speech, Murray emphasized that women’s rights needed to be part of the Civil Rights Movement.  Moreover, that women had been a part of the Civil Rights Movement from the very beginning, and deserved not only recognition, but a voice, and equality within the movement and the country.   In addition to helping found NOW (National Organization for Women), Murray was also a lawyer, a professor at Brandeis University, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest, making her among the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church.  This wonderful biography by Rosalind Rosenberg offers a poignant portrait of a figure who played pivotal roles in both the modern civil rights and women’s movements that shows the remarkable courage,  intellectual, and personal strength that all its leaders shared.

March: Book One, Two, and Three: Before he entered the United States Congress, Senator John Lewis was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, suffering police violence and the rage of many in his native Alabama who opposed the movement.  Lewis knew Martin Luther King Jr., and worked with him on actions as diverse as  nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins to the 1963 March on Washington.  These graphic novels are Lewis’ autobiography, from growing up on a share-cropping farm in Alabama to taking his seat in the US Senate, intended not only to share the story of the Civil Rights Movement with younger readers, but also to help them learn the practices and philosophy of non-violent protest so that they could become the leaders for the next generation.  These books are stunningly illustrated and enormously powerful, and have plenty to teach readers of any age group.

 

Please come into the Library to learn more about Dr. King, and all those people involved in the Civil Rights Movement and its ongoing legacy.

Blessing for the Longest Night by Jan Richardson

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy August to you, beloved patrons!

We may be, meteorologically speaking, in the doldrums, but for those of us who enjoy celebrating all that there is to be celebrated, August is far from a dull month.  Here are just a few of the holidays that you can savor this month:

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini On To Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

This is not a joke.  It’s in the Farmer’s Almanac, so clearly, it must be true.  August is high season for zucchini, and some people are lucky to have an over-abundance of the lovely green squashes, which can grow really quite mammoth if not picked, and really don’t store very well.  As a result, Pennsylvanian radio host Tom Roy designated August 8 as a day to off-load some of your zucchini by until the dead of night and quietly creeping up to your neighbors’ front doors, leaving plenty of zucchini for them to enjoy.

August 9: National Book Lover’s Day

This is not a drill.  It’s a whole day to celebrate you–and me–and all of us who measure our lives in pages and chapters.  So get out there and celebrate bibliophiles!  Or, better yet, come into the Library and visit with some treasured volumes!

August 24: National Waffle Day

The first U.S. patent for a waffle iron was issued in the U.S. on August 24, 1869 to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.  The first recipe for waffles (or, at least, a food recognizable as waffles) was written in the 14th century, so indulge in some history as well as some brunch today, and don’t skimp on the maple syrup!

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Sponsored by the National Confectioner’s Association of America, this day is reserved for the blazing glory and the smoky deliciousness that is the toasted marshmallow.  Mind you, it’s not National Smores Day….that’s August 10th.  This day is for the marshmallows alone.

And every day in August is a good day for books!  So let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have paraded onto our shelves this week for your reading pleasure!

The Unwomanly Face of War: Nobel-Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich’s stellar 1988 book is finally available in translation, and has lost nothing of its power or insight over the years.  Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record the oral histories of women who fought, worked, and served in the Second World War. nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.  In this collection, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war—the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories, and the remarkable, every day women who made history.  This is an incredibly important work, and a huge book for anyone interested in military history, women’s history, human interest stories, and storytelling in general.  The Guardian summed it all up beautifully, calling this book “A monument to courage . . . It would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original. . . . Alexievich’s account of the second world war as seen through the eyes of hundreds of women is an extraordinary thing. . . . Her achievement is as breathtaking as the experiences of these women are awe-inspiring.”

Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe: Another fascinating tale of women in the Second World War, this one from Inara Verzemnieks, whose grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated when they fled their family farm. They would not see each other again for more than 50 years. Raised by her grandparents in Washington State, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead and singing folk songs about a land she had never visited.  When Inara discovered the scarf Livija wore when she left home, this tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart.  This book is the interwoven story of Grandmother Livija’s life as a refugee, Ausma’s harrowing exile in Siberia under Stalin, and Inara’s quest for her family’s story, all coming together to form a beautiful, haunting tale of resilience, love, and profound loss, not only of one family, but of a nation and a generation.  Booklist called this work “Spellbinding and poetic, this is a moving tribute to the enduring promise of home.”

A Dark So Deadly: Beloved thriller-writer Stuart MacBride is back with a fascinating, fast-paced standalone story of an erstwhile group known as the Misfit Mob. It’s where the Scotland police dump the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.  But when Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, life starts to get a lot more interesting. The “real police” already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.  No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again? Clever, funny, and full of sensational atmosphere, this is an ideal way for new readers to discover MacBride’s talent.  Library Journal agrees, praising this novel’s  “Wickedly twisty plotting and dazzling displays of black humour”.

The Half-Drowned King: It isn’t often that we get a fiction debut about mythical Vikings, but here one is, and we couldn’t be more excited!  Ragnvald Eysteinsson grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Meanwhile, Svanhild is desperate to escape the arranged marriage her stepfather organized–but when freedom comes at the hands of her brother’s hatred rival, will she have the courage to take it?  A fascinating adventure with lots of rich characters and deep questions, this is a book for all the adventurers out there seeking new literary lands to explore.  Kirkus Reviews loved this one too, saying in their review “While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

The Seventh Function of Language: If you, like me, like your literature quirky and insolent, then look no further than Laurent Binet’s newest release.  This book has elements of a Dan Brown caper, but with the French intelligentsia as its cast of characters.  We begin in Paris, 1980, when the literary critic Roland Barthes dies―struck by a laundry van―after lunch with the presidential candidate François Mitterand. The world of letters mourns a tragic accident. But what if it wasn’t an accident at all? What if Barthes was . . . murdered?  Jacques Bayard is the hapless detective sent to investigate the case, who finds himself in search of a lost manuscript by the linguist Roman Jakobson on the mysterious “seventh function of language.”  Filled with secret societies, French philosophy, mayhem, and a love of language, Binet’s story is a bizarre and wonderful adventure that earned as starred and a boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no mean feat, that), who called this tale “[A] loving inquiry into 20th-century intellectual history that seamlessly folds historical moments . . . into a brilliant illustration of the possibilities left to the modern novel.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very joyous la fête du 14-juillet to you, beloved patrons!

Storming of The Bastile by Jean-Pierre Houël

July 14th is indeed the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, when, in 1789, some 950 inhabitants of Paris, who were opposed to Louis XVI and his conservative regime, gathered around the Bastille prison in the hopes of securing the cannon, gunpowder, and other weaponry being housed there.  Three of the crowd were sent into the prison to negotiate with the 32 guards who were posted inside, but after hours has passed, the crowd grew impatient, and began marching into the inner courtyard.  Panicked, the soldiers began shouting at the crowd to disperse, but in the confusion, their calls were mistaken as a welcome to enter.  Gunfire started (I couldn’t find an accurate assessment of who first opened fire), and the crowd quickly turned into a mob, while the handful of guards were reinforced with guards and cannon.  Fearing a massive loss of life, the Governor de Launay capitulated around 5:30pm, and the now-mob swept in to liberate the fortress.  Fearing reprisals at the hands of government, the citizens of Paris began building barricades in the streets and arming themselves, officially marking the battle lines of the French Revolution.

Claude Monet

The holiday, however, began in 1790, when a feast was held to celebrate peace and the unity of the French nation.  Another feast was held in 1878 to commemorate and celebrate the French nation–a celebration that was commemorated in the painting by Monet above–and was such a rousing success that the day was enshrined as a national holiday in 1880.  So you don’t have to wish anyone a “Happy Bastille Day”, or anything like that.  But you can come in and check out some of the wonderful new books that have pirouetted onto our shelves this week!

Why?: What Makes Us Curious: An astrophysicist himself, Mario Livio is fascinated by the mechanisms that make human curiosity–why we are more distracted by only hearing one side of a conversation, why we care about places and people and things we cannot see before us.  Why we invent thins. In order to attempt to answer these questions, Livio interviewed scientists, examined the lives of two of history’s most curious geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman, and talked to people with boundless curiosity: a superstar rock guitarist who is also an astrophysicist; an astronaut with degrees in computer science, biology, literature, and medicine.   And in this enormously readable book, he concludes that there is no definitive scientific consensus about why we humans are so curious, or about the mechanisms in our brain that are responsible for curiosity–but doesn’t that just make you more curious in the end?  Livio’s work has earned praise from Nobel winners, scientists, and readers alike, with Kirkus Reviews calling this fascinating book “A lively, expert, and definitely not dumbed-down account of why we’re curious.”

The Reason You’re Alive: From the author who brought you the Silver Linings Playbook comes another fascinating tale that transforms a personal journey into some much, much bigger.  After sixty-eight-year-old Vietnam Vet David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard–that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline, and whom David is now determined to track down and make amends.  As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and good-hearted American patriot fighting to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Dark, funny, and surprisingly tender.”

Gork, the Teenage Dragon: With a title like this, how could you not resist a peek into Gabe Hudson’s debut novel?  Gork isn’t like the other dragons at WarWings Military Academy. He has a gigantic heart, two-inch horns, and an occasional problem with fainting. His nickname is Weak Sauce and his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious—the lowest in his class. But he is determined not to let any of this hold him back as he embarks on the most important mission of his life: tonight, on the eve of his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. If she says yes, they’ll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she says no, Gork becomes a slave.  In the course of his interactions with his fellow dragons, from the nerds to the jocks, from Dr. Terrible, the mad scientist to Metheldra, a healer specializing in acupuncture with swords, Gork begins to realize that his biggest weakness–that big heart of his–may just be the secret power he needed all along.  This is a delightful, silly, honest, and uplifting coming-of-age tale that will capture the hearts of readers of any age, and that Publisher’s Weekly hailed  as “Cleverly plotted and executed. . . . Gork’s amusing growing-up story unfolds in vignettes of encounters with various kooky fellow dragons. Throughout, Hudson makes…brilliant reflections on humans’ often reptilian behavior.”

Hannibal: If everything you know about Hannibal begins and ends with elephants, you are definitely not alone.  But thanks to Patrick Hunt’s insightful new biography, you can realize what an incredible tactician and leader Hannibal really was, and just what an impact he had during his life, even though he was by no means undefeated…or, indeed, successful.  Nevertheless, to this day Hannibal is still regarded as a military genius. Napoleon, George Patton, and Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. are only some of the generals who studied and admired him. His strategy and tactics are still taught in military academies. He is one of the figures of the ancient world whose life and exploits never fail to impress. Historian Patrick N. Hunt has led archeological expeditions in the Alps and elsewhere to study Hannibal’s achievements. Now he brings Hannibal’s incredible story to life in this riveting and dramatic book.  Though this is a book that will definitely appeal to military history buffs, Library Journal points out that “The military history is thorough and balanced. . . . Drawing on both ancient and modern scholarship, this book is accessible for the nonspecialist; military history buffs will enjoy.”

Live from Cairo: Another debut here, this one from Ian Bassingthwaighte, whose own work in refugee legal aid informs much of this story about an American attorney, a methodical Egyptian translator, and a disillusioned Iraqi-American resettlement officer trying to protect a refugee, Dalia, who finds herself trapped in Cairo during the turbulent aftermath of the January 25, 2011 revolution.  As these individuals come together, united to save Dalia, laws are broken, friendships and marriages are tested, and lives are risked—all in an effort to protect one person from the dangerous sweep of an unjust world.  Though very much a book of–and for–the times, Bassingthwaighte’s work is also a story about the human need to seek connections and hope in the darkest of moments, and the joys that can be found, even in the midst of tragedy and fear.   Kirkus gave this book one of its many starred reviews, saying “There are far too many great things about this book to list in this small space: the tension and energy of the plot…the richness and subtlety of detail in the writing…profoundly humanizing the global refugee crisis. Bassingthwaighte’s virtuoso debut deserves the widest attention.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons, Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Bloomsday to you, beloved patrons!

As we discussed a while back, Bloomsday celebrates James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which is set entirely on June 16, 1904–which Joyce chose because it was the anniversary of his first meeting with his wife and muse, Nora Barnacle (pictured on the left).  Festivals are held around the world to commemorate the day in the life of Leopold Bloom (hence the name of the day), but there is no one who can outdo Dublin .  Don’t believe me, check out the Bloomsday website, with the week-long schedule of festivities!  For those of you on Twitter, also check out the feed of the National Library of Ireland, which is having way too much fun today with their mini-Joyce:

While we don’t have a Tiny Joyce wandering through out stacks today, we do have plenty of new books that have strolled onto our shelves this week that are very much looking forward to making your acquaintance!  Check out some of them below:

Love, Africa: Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman has covered every world conflict for the past twenty years, and has spent the last decade as the New York Times bureau chief in East Africa–the fulfillment of one of his life’s goal, which this book documents.  At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love, twice. On a do-it-yourself community service trip in college, he went to East Africa—a terrifying, exciting, dreamlike part of the world in the throes of change that imprinted itself on his imagination and on his heart.  But around that same time he also fell in love with a fellow Cornell student—the brightest, classiest, most principled woman he’d ever met. To say they were opposites was an understatement. She became a criminal lawyer in America; he hungered to return to Africa. For the next decade he would be torn between these two abiding passions.  This book is his coming-of-age story that deals with tortuous long-distance relationships, screwing up, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.   Critics are cheering that Gettleman brings the same passion and drive to this, his debut novel, as he does to his journalism, creating a book that is at once a love letter–to Africa, to journalism, and to life–and a fascinating glimpse into the very challenging world of international journalism.  Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it “[An] exciting, harrowing memoir …. there’s a thrilling immediacy and attention to detail in Gettleman’s writing that puts the reader right beside him…Gettleman’s memoir is an absolute must-read.”

The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Amanda Quick creates terrific historical romantic mysteries, and this mystery brings all the glamour and danger of the 1930’s to the page with her signature flair for detail and character.  When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool.  The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, which Irene, a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag, is desperate to discover.  But when Irene’s investigation threatens the famous actor, she finds herself teaming up with the Burning Cove Hotel’s owner, a once-famous magician who suffered a mysterious injury during his last performance.  Together, they realize the dreadful secrets behind the Burning Cove Hotel’s glitz and glamour–but will they live long enough to expose the truth?  Quick’s books are the perfect summer reads, and this stand alone novel is sure to keep you guessing right up until the final scene.  Library Journal loved this one, saying “This swiftly moving romance brims with surprising plot twists, delicious sensuality, and a delightfully classy 1930’s California setting. An adventurous romp that will have readers hungry for more.”

The Teeth of the Comb: I don’t think that Osama Alomar, a Syrian writer living in exile in Pittsburgh, PA, sees the world quite like most of us do.  And that is a gloriously wonderful thing, especially because he is so talented at bringing his world to life in these little parables, political allegories, and short stories, all of which feature personified animals (snakes, wolves, sheep), natural things (a swamp, a lake, a rainbow, trees), mankind’s creations (trucks, swords, zeroes) as characters. They aspire, they plot, they hope, they destroy, they fail, they love. These wonderful small stories animate new realities and make us see our reality anew.   This tiny book with big messages and grand tales is getting enormous, rave reviews from all corners–I am fairly sure some of the quoted reviews are longer than the stories!  But that just shows you what a breath of fresh air Alomar’s writing is.  Take, for example, Publisher’s Weekly‘s starred review: “There are no wasted words in Alomar’s beautiful collection of very short fictions. Philosophical and subversive, these tiny parables deconstruct human failings with a keen insight. The title story, an anecdote about the uneven teeth of a comb, reveals a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of social stratification…By working together with C.J. Collins on the translation, the author succeeds in highlighting the inherent poetics of his prose….Alomar’s work swims in the aspects of the modern world that do not make sense upon closer inspection, like the correlations between poverty and capitalism. These brief narratives are not nihilistic; they convey a plea for progress and improvement. Alomar’s writing brims with hope, and this slim volume is full of compassion and depth.”

The Loyal Son: The War in Benjamin Franklin’s House: Ben Franklin is usually portrayed as the most lovable of America’s founding fathers. His wit, his charm, his inventiveness—even his grandfatherly appearance—are legendary. But this image obscures the scandals that dogged him throughout his life, as historian Daniel Mark Epstein’s new book explores.  When he was twenty-four, Franklin fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife. He adopted the boy, raised him, and educated him to be his aide. Ben and William became inseparable. After the famous kite-in-a-thunderstorm experiment, it was William who proved that the electrical charge in a lightning bolt travels from the ground up, not from the clouds down. On a diplomatic mission to London, it was William who charmed London society. He was invited to walk in the procession of the coronation of George III; Ben was not.  But the outbreak of the American Revolution caused a devastating split between father and son, who was, by then, royal governor of New Jersey. In 1776, the Continental Congress imprisoned William for treason. George Washington made efforts to win William’s release, while his father, to the world’s astonishment, appeared to have abandoned him to his fate.  Epstein gets under the skin of this well-known story to show the very personal effects of the American Revolution on one very famous family.  Historians and readers alike have always praised Epstein’s work, and this book earned a starred review from Kirkus, who hailed it “A gripping history of a family torn apart by political upheaval . . . Drawing on much unpublished correspondence as well as published works, the author constructs a fast-paced, vivid narrative with a host of characters whose appearance and personality he etches with deft concision. . . . A perceptive, gritty portrayal of the frenzy of war and a father and son caught at its tumultuous center.”

The Refrigerator MonologuesCatherynne Valente’s imagination is absolutely limitless, and she is a marvel at analyzing, dissecting, and re-conceiving pop-culture, media, and our human fascination with in.  This book presents a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.  In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as she has analyzed fairy tales (and really, aren’t superhero tales pretty much the same thing in the modern age?).  With illustrations by Annie Wu, this is a wholly unique collection that showcases superheroes is a wholly novel way.  The Washington Post agrees, saying “In this novella, the superhero girlfriend gets to tell her own version of events in the afterlife. The women’s voices are strong: bitter and full of pain, yet steel-tipped in sarcasm and humor.”

 

Until next week, dear readers–Happy Reading!

And Happy Bloomsday!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy June, beloved patrons!  If the longer days and the promise of some prolonged sunshine in our future isn’t enough to get your celebration sandals on, here are a few more reasons to celebrate in June.

June is Pride Month, and a lot of Libraries around the area are planning some nifty events.  Check out the Boston Public Library’s Calendar of Events, in particular, for some great offerings!  In addition, the BPL also created its first ever “We Are Pride” booklist for children, teens, and adults, which you can access here.

June 2 is National Doughnut Day, which actually has a historic origin!  American women serving with the Salvation  Army during the First World War made doughnuts to serve to the troops, and their ingenuity became a symbol, of the Salvation Army’s work on the front lines, as well as a meaningful part of women’s history.  So have a doughnut today, and have a read of this article from the Salvation Army.

June 10 is National Ballpoint Pen Day, which commemorates the filing of the patent for the ballpoint pen by brothers Laszlo and Gyorgy Biro.  The ballpoint pen transformed who could write, because it made ink and pens so much cheaper, but also how we write.  Check out this nifty article from The Atlantic for just how.

June 18 is Father’s Day, an American holiday established by a woman named  Grace Golden Clayton after the Monograph Mining Disaster, which killed 361 men and left around 1,000 children fatherless in December 1907.  So celebrate the parental figures in your life today (and everyday!)

June 22 is National Onion Rings Day.  So go do your patriotic duty and enjoy!

And, because no celebration is complete without a few books, here are some of the new titles that gallivanted onto our shelves this past week–enjoy!

There Your Heart Lies:  Mary Gordon’s newest book is a part historical fiction, and part contemporary coming-of-age–a trend that is becoming super-popular these days.  Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War—an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian’s secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco’s war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years, inspiring Amelia to make a trip of her own.  A story of female bonds, of romance, and of the real challenge of defining a life, this is a book for arm-chair adventurers, history buffs, and literary aficionados alike.  Kirkus Reviews particularly loved the “Shifting points in time and points of view reveal a young woman shaped by the zealotry that can emanate from family, faith, or war . . . An emotionally and historically rich work with a strong character portrait holding together its disparate parts.”

D’arc : a novel from the war with no name: I hadn’t actually realized that The War With No Name was a series, but now that I have, I am thrilled that I will have more tales to share with my cat, who thinks these are among the best books we have on offer.  In the aftermath of the War With No Name, the queen used a strange technology to uplift the surface animals, turning all the animals in our world into intelligent, highly evolved creatures who must learn to live alongside their sworn enemies—humans.  Far removed from this newly emerging civilization, a housecat turned war hero named Mort(e) lives a quiet life with the love he thought he had lost, a dog named Sheba. But before long, the chaos that they escaped comes crashing in around them, bent on resuming the destruction of the war.  No longer able to run away, Sheba and Mort(e) rush headlong into the conflict, ready to fight but unprepared for a world that seems hell-bent on tearing them apart.  Not quite a fable, and not quite a science fiction book, these create a whole new world that is similar in its emotions, and yet utterly alien, making for a reading experience like no other.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this story a starred review, and called it “Fantastic . . . Well-drawn characters and emotional heft are hallmarks of this unusual series about the power of myth, love, and redemption in a dangerous time.”  My cat said it was almost better than his nighttime tuna.  Almost.

The Scribe of Siena: Remember how I said fiction that crossed the past with the present was big right now?  Well, Melodie Winawer’s debut falls into that category, but is also a romance, a thriller, and a time-traveling adventure that make it something wholly and wonderfully unique.  When neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato’s life is disrupted by tragedy, she welcomesa trip to the Tuscan city of Siena . There, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.  After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice is suddenly transported to the year 1347 in a Siena menaced  by the Plague.  Beatrice meets Accorsi, and falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.  Fans of Outlander, this is a story for you–and for anyone looking to be transported to another world.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this one a starred review as well, saying “The vivid descriptions of the people, way of life, food, and other details of medieval Italy deepen the plot, making the book a truly immersive experience…Winawer has created a prodigious, vibrant tale of past and present that transports readers and fills in the historical gaps. This is a marvelous work of research and invention.”

Walking to Listen:  At age 23, Andrew Forsthoefel had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide. In the year that followed, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself.  Few of us have the resources or the time to do what Forsthoefel , but the lessons that he learned during his trek are ones that we can indeed apply to our everyday lives.  This work, first and foremost, is one of hope, and that’s something that we can all use a dose of right about now.  Booklist agrees, saying “[Forsthoefel’s] openness provides a window into the extraordinary lessons to be learned from ordinary people. This is a memorable and heartfelt exploration of what it takes to hike 4,000 miles across the country and how one young man learned to walk without fear into his future.”

The Flight: Dan Hampton: On the rainy morning of May 20, 1927, a little-known American pilot named Charles A. Lindbergh climbed into his single-engine monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, and prepared to take off from a small airfield on Long Island, New York. Despite his inexperience—the twenty-five-year-old Lindbergh had never before flown over open water—he was determined to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize promised since 1919 to the first pilot to fly nonstop between New York and Paris, a terrifying adventure that had already claimed six men’s lives. Ahead of him lay a 3,600-mile solo journey across the vast north Atlantic and into the unknown; his survival rested on his skill, courage, and an unassuming little aircraft with no front window. Acclaimed aviation historian Dan Hampton’s The Flight is a long-overdue, flyer’s-eye narrative of Lindbergh’s legendary journey.  Using Lindbergh’s own personal diary and writings, as well as family letters and untapped aviation archives, Hampton brings us into the cockpit with Lindbergh, and gives us a pilot-eye view of this remarkable feat of daring.  Kirkus Reviews loved the trip, and gave the book a starred review, calling it “Vivid. … Offer[s] a cockpit’s-eye view of the flight. This you-are-there perspective effectively evokes the tension, risk, and skill involved, from the moment Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field, crosses the coast of Newfoundland, and soars alone into the night above the roiling sea.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!