Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something Terrible Happened on Kenmore

Set in Depression-era Chicago, Something Terrible Happened on Kenmore by Marci Stillerman, focuses on three main characters that live near Kenmore Avenue, most of them immigrants. There is also talk of the "rich kids" that live on Sheridan Road near Evanston, where the maids often walk the dogs and it is quiet and serene.

Fred is a quiet Jewish kid who enjoys drawing and who lives with his Ma. He doesn't know what to make of his feelings for a boy named Zane, and he knows he likes girls as friends but nothing more. Fred befriends Zane and his friends to fit in, mainly having relations with a chubby girl named Maizy since she's dubbed easy by most of the guys in the group. He later regrets the small amount of fooling around he does with her, but later becomes good friends with Maizy and grows fond of talking with her.

Zane is the town minister's son who could never live up to his father's expectations. He is often afraid of "the Rev" as he is called, and does what he can to keep peace in the house so he doesn't have his prized possesion, his Chevy, taken away from him. Zane often tries to show off to the guys like Marko, to make them believe he's some sort of ladies man when really the only girl who will give him a decent shot is Maizy, who is crazy about him even though he could care less about her. There is a scene where Zane forces himself upon Maizy and she later becomes pregnant by the incident. She questions this later on, wondering if it could be considered a rape though it is very apparent to the reader that it is indeed.

Maizy is often labeled the girl who would do anything, having low self-esteem and looking for love. She lives with her Pa and her little brother, Joey, who is mentally challenged. She takes on a wife roll, managing the house and tending after Joey while her Pa is off working. Her Ma died early on, and it is obvious that this girl could have used a strong female role model in her life, most importantly to talk to and bond with. In her quest for love, she wants to keep the child she is carrying and marry Zane, something that would never happen. She is definitely portrayed as a very naive girl, one who is searching for love and acceptance from men especially.

The situation that binds the three is a murder that took place where a little girl named Marta died of a brutal rape and asphyxiation, and thereafter her hand was cut off and thrown in the lake. The police are on the lookout for the hand to close the case and bring closure to the parents. Maizy befriends a lady named Anna who was Marta's mother. The two begin talking, and Maizy soon realizes that she knows the man who murdered little Marta. Fred and Zane also figure out the same thing, though by different means. All three teens feel this is something they could never share with each other, nor with the world so it has become a big secret except for Fred who finds it in himself to turn in a key piece of evidence that eventually makes its way to the Chicago Tribune headlines.

I think the feelings that each teen holds is something most people could relate to on some level: not feeling as though they fit in, hoping for something that might never be, thinking their parent doesn't accept who they really are, being naive to some aspect to life. This was a very interesting look into the 1930's, and one that I would recommend to both adults and teens.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A loss to science fiction

There have been several author deaths in the last several weeks. J.D Salinger, Robert B Parker, and Dick Francis are some of the more notable. But the science fiction world also suffered a loss recently with the death of Kage Baker. Baker (her first name comes from combining the names of her grandmothers, Katherine and Genevieve) had been battling uterine cancer. She passed away on January 31st.

She was best known for her “Company” novels and short stories. In these stories, the 24th century Dr. Zeus, Inc (the “Company”) had discovered how to travel into the past. There they recruit young children, raise, train them, and turn them into immortal cyborgs. These cyborg agents are then given jobs to preserve artifacts thought lost in time; art, literature, extinct plants and animals, and such. In return for their service, they are promised a life of comfortable retirement once they reach the “present” of the 24th century. The series covers the adventures of these agents through the centuries, and over time some learn that the Company may not be as benevolent as it appears, and that some within the company have agendas of their own.

The series is less about the science fiction and more about the characters. These stories are a fascinating look at the time periods visited by agents of the Company, including a rather dystopian, yet possible future. Just as the beliefs and customs of a past civilization would seem quaint and bizarre to someone from the future, we also get a look at how the views of someone from a future time period would seem equally bizarre to people from the past. In addition, the immortal cyborgs have their own viewpoints. What would it be like to be immortal, with knowledge of future events, but with only the ability to preserve “lost” artifacts? How would that color the perceptions of the “mere mortals” around you?

The series begins with the novel In the Garden of Iden


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction 2010

Did you know that artists are only eligible to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twenty-five years after their first recording is released? This year's inductees, ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and The Stoogies, will be inducted on March 15, 2010 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and will air live on

ABBA first put Sweden on rock's global map in 1972. They were a dominant music force throughout the 70's with their catchy song hooks, simple lyrics, sound effects (reverb, phasing) and a Wall of Sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies. Their music was adapted into the successful musical Mamma Mia! (DVD MAM; CD 782.14 AND)

Genesis began as a cult art-rock band in England in the late 1960's and went on the pack stadiums across the globe in the 1980's, 1990's and on their 2007 reunion tour. Two of the most acclaimed prog-rock albums in the history of the genre are Selling England By The Pound (CD 781.66 GEN) and The Lamb Lies down On Broadway.

Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come (CD 781.542 HAR) and Many Rivers to Cross (CD 781.646 CLI) introduced reggae to a worldwide audience and changed the image of the genre to music of rebellion and inspiration.

The Hollies are an English rock group formed in the early 1960's. They used a wide-open three-part harmonies that were totally different from other British Invasion beat groups. The Hollies: 30th anniversarycollection, 1963-1993 (CD 781.66 HOL)

Iggy and The Stooges were from Ann Arbor, Michigan, performed from 1967-1974, and later reformed in 2003. They are widely regarded as instrumental in the rise of punk rock, as well as influential to alternative rock, heavy metal and rock music.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Check Out Video Games for Winter Fun!

The holidays are over and winter has really started to settle in over the last couple weeks. With the cold temperatures and blustery snowstorms we've had lately you may be looking for some new indoor activities to beat the winter blahs.

Stop by our Periodicals and Audiovisual Desk on the lower level of the Library and ask about our new video games. Our collection is for families and teens and you can check out games for Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 game systems. Video games can be checked out for one week and there is a limit of one checkout per library card. This is a great way to try out video games to see if they are worth owning before you actually purchase them!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Get Lost!

ABC’s hit show “Lost” began its final season last week and in addition to speculation about smoke monsters, polar bears, magnetic anomalies and “the Others”, faithful viewers also talk about books, specifically the ones characters are seen reading. So here are a few of the titles glimpsed in the series - you can decide what, if anything, they might have to do with what’s really happening on that baffling island.

Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Tells the story of a warren of wild rabbits who escape from their home as men develop the surrounding fields. “Lost” castaway Boone was the original owner of the book, but Sawyer is the one who’s seen reading it.

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie.
When a shrewish stage star is found strangled at a posh island resort, detective Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate. Sawyer, who is a bit criminally minded himself, may have particularly enjoyed this book, which he was spotted with in season three.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
This classic book examines the origin and nature of the universe and explains it all in understandable terms for the layman. Aldo, one of the Others, is seen reading (and making notes in) this book while on guard duty.

Carrie by Stephen King.
A repressed and abused teenager uses her telekinetic powers to avenge the cruel jokes of her classmates. This disturbing story was a selection for the Others’ book club.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
This 1943 classic novel tells the story of a gifted architect’s struggle against conventional standards, his battle with a professional rival, and his complex relationship by with his lady love. Again, this is one of avid and eclectic reader Sawyer’s books.

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. Flann O'Brien's brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Desmond is seen reading this when the Hatch is infiltrated by Oceanic Flight 815 survivors.

The Turn Of the Screw by Henry James.
A new governess at a remote country estate has her first peaceful weeks disturbed by the apparition of the ghosts of two evil servants who once served in the house. The Dharma Orientation film is hidden behind this book in the Swan Station.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’ Engle.
Meg and Charles Wallace set out with their friend Calvin in a search through time and space for their father, whose top secret job as a physicist for the government has taken him away. Sawyer reads the book on the beach.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Bloom.
Faced with the difficulties of growing up and choosing a religion, an eleven-year-old girl talks over her problems with her own private God. Sawyer reads this book on the beach, demonstrating his indiscriminate desire for reading material. He disliked the book, calling it "predictable", with "not nearly enough sex".

Dirty Work by Stuart Woods.
Hired to collect evidence for a celebrity divorce case, cop-turned-lawyer Stone Barrington finds himself having to defend his honor when the person he is investigating is murdered. The book can be seen in the Swan station by Sawyer's bed as he is recovering from the injuries caused as a result of the raft incident.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.
John Harmon will inherit a fortune if he marries a girl whose personality has been affected by her wealth, and friends and events conspire to prove her true worth. Desmond finds Penny’s letter of love and devotion in the book as he is contemplating suicide.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Love is in the Air

It's that time of year... Valentine's Day is right around the corner and love is in the air! If you're in the mood for love, cozy up with one of the love stories below. If you've already read them all, please let us know and we'll be happy to recommend a few more.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom brings us a collection of interconnected stories where a young woman struggles to come to terms with her roommate's murder, in-laws confess their indiscretions in an unlikely place, and two middle-aged friends discover a comedic attraction.

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

After finding a pair of black lace panties under the front seat of her husband's car and cavorting herself in the back seat of another vehicle with her old high-school flame, Maddie Faraday realizes that the truth is elusive in a small town.

Days of Gold by Jude Deveraux

After a failed attempt to reclaim Edilean Talbot's family gold, Angus McTern is accused of kidnapping and theft and must flee 1766 Scotland with Edilean and find refuge in the growing American colonies.

What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

When actress Georgie York's film career hits rock bottom along with her marriage, the paparazzi has a field day with her misfortune, which is only complicated by the reappearance of her sexy, unscrupulous former costar, Bramwell Shepard.

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

When Valentine Roncalli discovers a long-lost shoe design, a family secret unravels that helps her take control of the company from a conniving relative, but first she seeks the counsel of her ex-fiance, Bret Fitzpatrick, to help re-boot the business.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grammy's Going Gaga

It wasn't entirely Lady Gaga's night but folks are definitelly listening and tuning in because her The Fame hauled in wins for best Electronic/Dance album and Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. On the music industry's biggest night of the year some other winners were Taylor Swift (Album of the Year), Kings of Leon (Record of the Year), Zac Brown Band (Best New Artist), and Beyonce (Song of the Year). Am I the only one who always wondered about what the difference was between some of these categories? I still go to record shops and buy 12" vinyl records. Isn't that an album too? If 'Best Record' category is for a single song by an artist, then what about 'Best Song'? Isn't that a record too? You see where I'm at? If you're looking for a bit of clarification you can find out more at the winners page on the Grammy's Website.

Every year I end up thinking not about the winners and losers but about how much music the Grammy Awards show is missing out on. Greg Kot's recent article does a nice job of pointing this out without knocking the platinum selling artists off their pedestal. There's not room for everybody at the big show but there's plenty of good music out there. Don't listen to the naysayers who tell you there hasn't been any good music since 1968, or 1982, or 1991, or _____. It seems like I'm always cajoling you to use your library card to explore some new (maybe unheard, maybe unheard of) music from our collection. What better way to take a chance on something you have absolutely NO idea what it sounds like? NO idea if you would like or not? The great thing about the library's music collection -- and forgive me if I end up sounding like a broken record (pun intended) -- but we have the Grammy winners and nominees (ok, most of 'em) as well as current new releases from artists that might be celebrating at next year at the Grammy's. Yep, we have ALL that and a lot more.

Do you sometimes take a trip to the library to peruse the new fiction or non-fiction books looking for something that might jump out and appeal to you that you'd otherwise never heard of before? Do you do the same thing with our music collection? Come in sometime and give it a try. You might be surprised what you can find.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Literary Connection of Oscar Nominated Films 2010

I have a very keen interest in seeing films that are based on books. This year is a bonanza, since four of the 10 films nominated for best picture are based on books

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game is a book written by Michael Lewis in 2006 about American football. It consists of two storylines. The first examines how offensive football strategy has evolved over the last 30 years and how this development has emancipated the role of the left tackle. This position now rivals the quarterback in both importance and pay. The second storyline is about Michael Oher, former left tackle for the Ole Miss football team, and current right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis follows Oher from his impoverished childhood with a crack-addicted mother through his years at Briarcrest Christian School, his adoption by a wealthy white family and on to his position as one of the most successful highly-paid players in the NFL.

The movie, The Blind Side, is a 2009 American drama-sports film written and directed by John Lee Hancock. It primarily follows the story of Michael Oher. It stars Quinton Aaron as Michael. It also features appearances by several past and present college football coaches. The film ends with the 2009 NFL Draft, showing the real-life Michael Oher being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress -Motion Picture Drama.

An Education is a 2009 British coming-of-age drama film based on an autobiographical memoir of the same title written by British journalist Lynn Barber. Nick Hornsby created the screenplay based on an autobiographical essay by Barber published in the literary magazine "GRANTA." The paperback edition of Hornsby's screenplay includes stills from the film and is a perfect accompaniment to the movie. Barber's full memoir, An Education, was not published in book form until June 2009, when filming had already been completed. It is about her affair, while she was still in high school, with an older con man named Simon. Her parents were as infatuated with him a she was and impressed by his worldliness. This encounter changed her life. She spent weekdays prepping for Oxford and weekends flying off to European cities and staying in luxury hotels. The problem with Simon was that he was married and had a child. The education and lesson she received from Simon was that people are almost always NOT as they appear to be. The book is well-written and is a refreshingly straight-forward, honest, autobiography/memoir.

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire is a 2009 American drama film directed by Lee Daniels. Precious is an adaptation by Geoffrey S. Fletcher of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. The film's title was changed from Push to Precious to avoid confusion with the 2009 action film Push.

Push is the1996 debut novel of American author Sapphire. A courageous and determined young teacher opens up a new world of hope and redemption for 16 year-old Claireece "Precious" Jones. She is a young African-American girl living in Harlem who has been repeatedly raped and left pregnant by her father as well as physically and mentally abused by her invalid mother. The book is based upon the "young women Sapphire encountered when she worked as a literacy teacher in Harlem and the Bronx for seven years." Sapphire uses a literary technique called stream-of-consciousness which presents Precious' thoughts as they are occurring in her mind. Sapphire aspired to promote awareness and hope in her readers by confronting many social issues such as incest/rape, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and education/literacy.

Up in the Air is a 2009 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman and co-written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner. This story is about a corporate downsizer and his travels. The film follows his isolated life and philosophy, along with the people he encounters. Turner wrote the screenplay adaptation which he sold to Dreamworks in 2003 after discovering the 2001 novel, Up in the Air, written by Walter Kirn. The book centers around 35-year-old Ryan Bingham, a traveling management consultant, who spends his life on airplanes and in airports as he travels around the country, pursuing his goal to accumulate one million miles in his frequent flyer account. The book stands on its own. It realistically portrays a life without a home - a life in chain hotels and airport restaurants. The protagonist, Ryan Bingham, is quite entertaining and Kirn's satirical philosophy regarding corporate culture is delivered through Ryan's voice. He is laugh out loud funny about air travel, hotels, restaurants, Vegas and family values. This novel does not have an action-backed plot; it is about interesting characters.

Check out these great reads for their own merit or to compare the book version with the film version. Let us know what you think! Also, be sure to check out our displays of Academy Award Winning Films and Academy Award Winning Performances, from previous years, in the Periodicals Department.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Norwegian Queen of Crime

Can’t wait for the next Stieg Larsson book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornest's Nest, to be released? (May 2010), give award-winning crime novelist Karin Fossum a try. Known as Norway’s “Queen of Crime”, Fossum has established herself as a force in the very competitive field of Scandinavian crime fiction. Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer is intelligent, sensitive, and the fair minded protagonist in her internationally acclaimed series. In The Water’s Edge, sixth in the series, Reinhardt and Kristine Ris, stumble upon the partially nude body of seven year-old Jonas August Lowe in the woods. Soon after their gruesome discovery the Rises’ notice a man limping away who has a strong resemblance to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspectors Konrad Sejer and his partner Jacob Skarre must solve another child murder case. With little physical evidence to aid them, Sejer and Skarre interview a convicted pedophile who suggests they are looking for a first time offender. As the case stalls another young boy goes missing and the inspectors are in a race against time to find him before they have two murders to solve. Jonas August Lowe’s mother Elfrid slips into near madness as she tries to cope with her grief and Reinhardt Ris develops a morbid fascination with the life and death of little Jonas. When Sejer and Skarre finally receive the critical break in the case that they need, the real horror of what happened to these two young boys is revealed. Reminiscent of the hugely popular Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell mystery readers will not be disappointed.

Karin Fossum currently lives in Oslo, Norway and began her writing career as a poet. Her first collection was published in 1974 when she was 20 years old. Her critically acclaimed novels have been translated into 16 languages. She has won the following awards; the Glass Key Award and Riverton Prize for the book Don’t Look Back, Gumshoe Award for best European crime novel of the year 2007 for the novel When the Devil Holds the Candle, LA Times Book Prize in the category of Mystery/Thriller 2007 for The Indian Bride, and was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award 2007 for Calling Out for You.