Friday, April 29, 2011

Books By Theme: If You Like Bill Bryson

"I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city." 
~ Bill Bryson, American author

book cover of Pass the Butterworms by Tim Cahill
by Tim Cahill
Vintage Departures, 1998

Outside magazine founding editor Tim Cahill offers a collection of travel essays that chronicle trips to such places as Mongolia, Yellowstone National Park, and Peru, where, on a serious note, he looks into a murder. To get a sense of Cahill's style, you just need to look at the titles of his books, such as Lost in My Own Backyard and A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg. While perhaps a bit more daring than Bryson in the adventures he embarks on, Cahill brings humor along with cogent and often personal commentary to his extensive travel writing; Bryson readers will certainly appreciate this as well as Cahill's companionable manner.

by Pete McCarthy
St. Martin's Press, 2003

Though his family lived in England, Pete McCarthy's heart belonged to his mother's Irish homeland, thanks in part to youthful summers spent at his uncle's idyllic farm in Cork. McCarthy's Bar chronicles the comedian/writer/BBC host's amusing Irish adventures as he searched for his green roots in the Emerald Isle's countryside and, of course, her pubs (after all, one should "never pass a bar that has your name on it"). Fans of Bill Bryon's Notes on a Small Island may be particularly interested in this funny, authentic look at England's neighbor. For more McCarthy, check out The Road to McCarthy, which finds him traveling around the globe looking for other McCarthys.

book cover of Travels with Alice by Calvin Trillin
by Calvin Trillin
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999

In Travels with Alice, a lighthearted collection of essays first published in 1989, noted author and columnist Calvin Trillin recounts trips with his wife and two daughters. The family eats well (though they are more than familiar with Paris's fast-food restaurants) and enjoy amusing adventures in Europe and the Caribbean. Bryson fans might enjoy reading Trillin's work--although travel is not his specialty, he does go in search of interesting food and adventures, and his extremely humorous, conversational accounts resonate with insights into people and places.

by Mark Twain
North Books, 2003

Though he passed away 100 years ago, Mark Twain hit the bestseller lists last year when his unexpurgated autobiography was released. Travelogue fans may not be as interested in that recent book as they would be in Following the Equator (also known as More Tramps Abroad), an account first published in 1897 of Twain's globetrotting adventure around the world at age 60 as part of a speaking tour (he needed the money). Readers who appreciate Bryson's wit might want to read what another of America's great humorists wrote about travel. Additionally, Bryson fans who share his appreciation of history might enjoy this time-capsule look at life in the 19th century.

Books by Theme was inspired by both Melissa at One Librarians Book Reviews's feature Listless Monday and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday- April 25

mailbox monday

Mailbox Monday is on tour at Passages to the Past. I received two books last week.

book cover of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
The Girl Who Circumnaviagted Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
Feiwel & Friends (May 10, 2011)

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

book cover of Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich

Say Hello To Zorro!
by Carter Goodrich
Simon & Schuster (March 22, 2011)

Mister Bud is a dog of routine. He has wake up time, nap time, rest time, dinner time, etc. And everyone knows to follow his schedule.
Then disaster strikes.  A stranger comes home at "make a fuss time" and throws everything off! Zorro is little bit bossy and Mister Bud wants nothing to do with him. But when the dogs discover they like the same things (like chasing the cat and napping), everything becomes more fun. As long as everyone follows the schedule.

A BIG thank you to all the above authors and publishers for providing the books!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mini Reviews: One Day, The Highest Tide, Smile

book cover of One Day by David Nicholls
One Day
by David Nicholls
Vintage Contemporaries, 2009
Genre: Fiction


The single day that Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley spend together in 1988, the day after college graduation in Edinburgh, makes a distinct impression on each of them and a relationship forms only after they part ways and are reunited once a year on the same day for twenty years.

My Thoughts:

This book started slowly for me, but I was soon eagerly turning the pages to see what would be happening to Dexter and Emma on July 15th of each year. I loved watching their lives progress on the page. Their friendship ebbed and flowed, much like many of mine do now as I near my thirties. A real tearjearker moment happened toward the end of the book that I am embarrased to say I didn't see coming. I don't usually cry while reading, but I sobbed during part of this one. Just warning you.

book cover of The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
The Highest Tide
by Jim Lynch
Bloomsbury, 2005
Genre: Fiction/Coming-of-age


When thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley discovers a rare deep-sea creature stranded in the mud of the tidal flats of Puget Sound, he finds himself thrown into the limelight, but when he continues discovering rare ocean creatures, some begin to wonder if he is an unlikely prophet.

My Thoughts:

This is a lovely, quiet book that kept reminding me of A Separate Peace. And The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, for some reason. I loved reading Lynch's descriptions of the fantasic sea creatures found by Miles in the Puget Sound tidal flats.

book cover of Smile by Raina Telgemeier graphic novel
by Raina Telgemeier
Graphix, 2010
Genre: Graphic Novel


The author relates, in graphic form, her experiences after she injured her two front teeth and had to have surgeries and wear embarrassing braces and headgear, all while also dealing with the trials and tribulations of middle school.

My Thoughts:

Almost everyone has a dental horror story. I know I do.

Fifth grade + volleyball + knocked out front tooth = hating gym class for the rest of my life

I've had pretty much every horrific dental and orthodontial procedure invented happen inside my mouth, so I could definitely relate to Telgemeier's adolescent experiences with knocked out teeth, braces, and the insecurities that come along with being thirteen. Another great addition to the graphic novel genre that my upper elementary and middle school students can't seem to get enough of.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: High School Edition

book cover of The Queen of Water by Laura Resau
The Queen of Water
by Laura Resau
Genre: Fiction


Living in a village in Ecuador, a Quechua Indian girl is sent to work as an indentured servant for an upper class "mestizo" family. 

Why you'll love it:
  • Rooted in Farinango’s true story, the honest, first-person, present-tense narrative is occasionally detailed and repetitive, but it dramatizes the classic search for home with rare complexity and no sentimentality or easy resolutions. 
  •  Bright spots of humor and warmth are woven throughout, and readers will agonize for Virginia while seething at her tormentors. 
  • The complexities of class and ethnicity within Ecuadorian society are explained seamlessly within the context of the first-person narrative, and a glossary and pronunciation guide further help to plunge readers into the novel's world. 

book cover of The Darlings are Forever by Melissa Kantor
The Darlings Are Forever
by Melissa Kantor
Genre: Fiction


Best friends Jane, Victoria, and Natalya, who call themselves the Darlings, find their relationship tested when they start their freshman year at three very different high schools. 

Why You'll Love It:
  • The girls are easy to care about, and the message-that true friendships can change and grow and still be maintained-will appeal to fans of Ann Brashares's "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series (Delacorte).
  • The problems and crises that arise are credible and not always predictable, the dialogue rings true, and the girls are well-developed characters that avoid stereotype.
  • The third-person narration shifts from girl to girl as it sensitively explores their experiences.

book cover of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical Fiction


In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author's family, includes a historical note.

Why You'll Love It:
  • A tender and moving story filled with details that make the places and events described come to life.
  • Ruta Sepetys drew inspiration for the book, her first novel, from interviews with Lithuanian refugees and her own family’s experiences. Not surprisingly, then, the characters, with all their foibles, dreams, and flaws, are incredibly realistic and sympathetic.
  • Though the book has heavy themes, readers will race through it, desperate to know what happens next.

book cover of Consumed by Kate Cann
by Kate Cann
Genre: Supernatural Fiction


A new manager brings many changes to Morton's Keep, capitalizing on its gothic atmosphere and history, but Rayne sees ominous signs indicating that the one thing that has not changed is the evil presence she had thought was destroyed.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Kate Cann is a top-notch suspense writer, weaving together a murder mystery with pagan folklore to build to a thrilling climactic confrontation of good versus evil.
  • Rayne’s spot-on teenage uncertainties, her complex romance with Ethan, and the small details of life at Morton’s Keep create a convincing reality, making the story’s supernatural elements even more striking.
  • Readers of Possessed, the previous book, will be uneasy as the mysterious new manager, Miss Skelton, gradually takes control of Morton’s Keep. (Those new to the series may want to start with Possessed to enhance their experience.) 

book cover of Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
Blink and Caution
by Tim Wynne-Jones
Genre: Fiction


Blink, hoping to steal some breakfast, is forced to go on the run after stumbling upon the fake kidnapping of a CEO and recovering the man's cell phone, and he meets up with Caution, a girl trying to ditch her drug-dealing boyfriend, who identifies Blink as a mark until he tugs at her heart strings.

Why You'll Love It:
  • The crime-drama element of the novel, involving a dispute over corporate uranium mining on Indian-owned land, has enough suspense and action to keep readers interested while they forge a connection with the main characters.
  • Separate narratives-with spot-on dialogue and an effective use of a second-person point of view-come together to unite the two characters in a breathtaking thriller as they search for the kidnapped businessman and maybe make a fair sum of money in the process.
  • Wynne-Jones does an excellent job of portraying the pair's budding relationship as they learn to trust one another in highly charged circumstances.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Libraries in the News

There something definitely different about playing the New York Public Library. There’s not many venues I play that have big stone lions outside, apart from my house, of course.”
—Musician Elvis Costello, who performed in November for a small audience at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Spinner, Mar. 31.

Where did steampunk come from?
Jess Nevins writes: “The task of defining steampunk has become surprisingly difficult. Wildly differing definitions are currently in use. But certain tropes appear in most definitions of steampunk. Steam power and dirigibles are so common in steampunk as to be stereotypical or even archetypal steampunk iconography. The following is a baker’s dozen of the more interesting uses of these steampunk tropes in fiction of the pulp years.”...

io9, Apr. 4

Gone With The Wind Margaret Mitchell manuscript
Gone with the Wind manuscript rediscovered
A page from American literary history, stored away at the Pequot Library in Southport, Connecticut, since the 1950s and rarely on public view, is back in the spotlight. The last four chapters of the final typescript of the novel Gone With the Wind—believed to have been burned by the husband of author Margaret Mitchell following her death in 1949—will be exhibited through May 7 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the book. The manuscript was donated to the library by George P. Brett Jr., head of Macmillan publishing and president of the library in 1953–1958. The only other remaining chapters of the typescript are chapters 43 and 44, held in a vault in Atlanta....
Bridgeport Connecticut Post, Mar. 30

Pastor hacks library’s filter to view child porn
The case of a Hernando, Mississippi, minister busted for child porn on a public library computer has tongues wagging. Oak Grove Baptist Church Pastor Eddie Prince faces one count of possession of child pornography. His arrest has people wondering how he got caught doing such a private thing in the middle of the Hernando Public Library. But library staffers saw Prince in December and reported him to the manager, who called police. Patron Sharon Savittieri thinks the public library is one of the best places to use a computer to access the internet, because of its usually effective filters....
WREG-TV, Memphis, Tenn., Apr. 5

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mailbox Monday- April 11

mailbox monday

Mailbox Monday is on tour this month at Passages to the Past.  Last week I received six books.

book cover for I Wonder Why Penguins Can't Fly by Pat Jacobs
I Wonder Why Penguins Can't Fly by Pat Jacobs

I Wonder Penguins Can’t Fly takes a look at the coldest places on Earth – the Poles. Readers will learn about animals that live at the Poles, such as polar bears, penguins and seals; and also discover how plants survive at the Poles, why the polar ice caps are in danger of melting, and how scientists gather important information about the climate and more in the harshest environment.

book cover for The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison AllenThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Thirty-year-old Willa Jackson might be returning to her rural North Carolina home to escape her failed marriage, but what awaits her is anything but a smooth, quiet healing period. Instead, Willa tosses herself into a 75-year-old murder mystery and a developing relationship with a local benefactor. The new novel by Sarah Addison Allen (The Girl Who Chased the Moon; Garden Spells; The Sugar Queen) contains a poignant mix of human drama, sibling feuds, and Southern hospitality.

book cover for Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Plain Kate by Erin Bow

After her father's death, the orphaned heroine of Bow's YA debut novel supports herself by carving wooden talismans in a vaguely Russian village ruled by superstition. When strange things start happening, Kate, already considered "halfway to a witch" because of her knife skills, must leave or risk being burned at the stake. She makes a bargain with Linay, a real witch, trading her shadow for things she needs to flee as well as her "heart's wish," which, poignantly, turns out to be someone to talk to: her cat, Taggle, can now speak. Kate connects with a caravan of "Roamers," and it soon becomes clear that Linay took her shadow for evil purposes. Despite the talking animal (who nearly steals the show) and graceful writing (Kate carries Taggle around her neck, "draped bonelessly, like a fur collar with glittering eyes"), this is a dark and complex tale, full of violence--knives cut a lot more than wood. The ending, which reverses nearly every bad thing that has happened along the way, is a bit much, but Kate is undeniably a sympathetic character deserving of happiness.

book cover for The Psychopath Test by Jon RonsonThe Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Author/documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson has made a career writing about people on the outskirts. His Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats have both been hits; in fact, the latter book also became a major motion picture. His latest full immersion into craziness begins when he learns of a British prisoner who, in a foolhardy plan for early release, pretends that he is insane. This foxy hoax worked so well that the convict finds himself incarcerated as incurably mad. From that dizzying takeoff, Ronson's book cruises to theories about CEO and politician psychopaths and interviews with neurologists about telltale clues of mental dysfunction. A refreshing take on the grim topic of lunacy.

book cover for Hester by Paula Reed
Hester by Paula Reed

Upon the death of her demonic husband, Hester Prynne is left a widow, and her daughter, Pearl, a wealthy heiress. Hester takes her daughter to live a quiet life in England, only to find herself drawn into the circle of the most powerful Puritan of all time, Oliver Cromwell.
From the moment Hester donned the famous scarlet letter, it instilled in her the power to see the sins and hypocrisy of others, an ability not lost on the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. To Cromwell, Hester's sight is either a sign of sorcery or a divine gift that Hester must use to assist the divinely chosen, as he deems himself, in his scheming to control England. Since sorcery carries a death sentence, Hester is compelled against her will to use her sight to assist Cromwell. She soon finds herself entangled in a web of political intrigue, espionage, and forbidden love.
Hester will carry readers away to seventeenth-century England with a deeply human story of family, love, history, desire, weakness, and the human ideal.

book cover for One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne RocklinOne Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

When a mysterious man arrives one day on Orange Street, the children who live on the block try to find out who he is and why he’s there. Little do they know that his story—and the story of a very old orange tree—connects to each of their personal worries in ways they never could have imagined. From impressing friends to dealing with an expanding family to understanding a younger sibling’s illness, the characters’ storylines come together around that orange tree.
Taking place over the course of a day and a half, Joanne Rocklin’s masterful novel deftly builds a story about family, childhood anxieties, and the importance of connection. In the end the fate of the tree (and the kids who care for it) reminds us of the magic of the everyday and of the rich history all around us.

A BIG thank you to all the above authors and publishers for providing the books!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Books By Theme: It's elementary, my dear Watson...

Sherlock Holmes and Watson

No doubt many mystery writers point to Conan Doyle as an influence, but some have gone a step further, writing additional cases for Sherlock Holmes. In Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretarya series of killings at Holyrood House in Edinburgh bear an uncanny resemblance to crimes committed against the advisors of Mary, Queen of Scots 300 years earlier. Holmes and Watson are called in to solve the case before anyone close to Queen Victoria—or the monarch herself—ends up dead.

If the appeal is the Victorian setting, suggest Gyles Brandreth's series opener, Oscar Wilde And A Death of No Importance, in which Arthur Conan Doyle helps his friend Oscar Wilde discover the truth about the murder of an artist's model. What unfolds is a plot familiar to anyone who's read The Picture of Dorian Gray, but the duo's path to the truth is the real treat for Conan Doyle fans.

If you crave more mysteries, there's Laurie R. King's excellent Mary Russell series. In the ninth and most recent title, The Language of Bees, Mary is in Sussex deciphering the destruction of one of Holmes's beehives while Holmes looks for a missing wife and her daughter. But Holmes needs Mary—and his brother Mycroft—to help him solve the case. Each title stands on its own, but if you want to watch the development of Mary and Sherlock's relationship, start with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

For something contemporary and different, pick up Michael Robertson's The Baker Street Letters. Brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath rent an office on Baker Street, with the stipulation that they must answer letters sent to Sherlock Holmes. After reading a 20-year-old missive from a little girl in California, Nigel disappears, leaving a dead body behind. More of a caper than an intellectual mystery, but Holmes fans and even mystery book groups will enjoy the ride.

All summaries are from Library Journal.

Books by Theme was inspired by both Melissa at One Librarians Book Reviews's feature Listless Monday and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mini Reviews: Cutting For Stone, Survivor, This is Where I Leave You

book cover for Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
Title: Cutting For Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2009

Summary: Twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone come of age in Ethiopia, sharing a deep bond that has helped them survive the loss of their parents and the country's political upheaval, but when they both fall for the same woman, their bond is broken and the two go their separate ways, until a medical crisis reunites them.

This was the best book I've read in the last six months. Hands down. Cutting for Stone is one of those books that you read while walking throughout your apartment, not really caring if you run into walls on the way to the bathroom. I've always been fascinated with the occupation of surgery, which is what both Marion and Shiva, as well as their adoptive parents, do for a living. I'm looking forward to reading Verghese's nonfiction offerings.

You Might Also Like: 

book cover for Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
Title: Survivor
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Genre: Satire/Psychological Fiction
Publisher: W.W. Norton, 1999

Summary: Just before committing suicide, Tender Branson dictates his life story and reveals what life was like as a member of the Creedish Death Cult.

For those of you not already familiar with Palaniuk's work, I will warn you: it is an acquired taste. I had no trouble taking it in, mind you, but many people find him morbid. If you like dark humor, you will enjoy his work. But please stick with the early stuff, especially this one, Lullaby, or Diary. They are his best.

You Might Also Like:

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper book coverTitle: This is Where I Leave You
Author: Jonathan Tropper
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Dutton, 2009

Summary: Judd Foxman honors his father's dying request by spending a week with his dysfunctional family while simultaneously coping with his wife's infidelity.

After Judd's father passes away, the Foxman siblings discover they are expected to sit shiva at their childhood home. Every sibling has their own personal issues they are dealing with in addition to the death of their father. In spite of all this, the book is hilarious. I picked up an ARC of this book at the ALA Annual Conference a couple of years ago, and it's been sitting on my bookshelf waiting on me. After reading a great review lauding Tropper's literary prowess, I decided it was time I give him a shot. So glad I did. I'd like to read Tropper's How To Talk To A Widower next.

You Might Also Like:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...