Sunday, October 31, 2010

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

"I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard." Told through the voice of Mia, the reader is brought into a world where a teen girl is standing outside of her body, after a tragic car accident that took the lives of both parents and her little brother, Teddy. She must decide: should I stay, or should I go? What would life be like without her parents and brother? How would this young cellist go to Julliard as "an orphan" as she hears herself referred to by the nurses in the ICU. Mia has to contemplate this big decision as she watches over her body in the hospital, hooked up to machines. She watches as the people in her life come and go as visitors: her best friend, boyfriend, aunts, uncles, cousins. Beautifully written, the decision is "a choice" that one has in their own destiny. Flashbacks of Mia's life sprinkle throughout the book to bring the reader up to date with where Mia's life has gone, how she became to love music, how relationships with her boyfriend was central, and how her struggle to "stay or go" not only was meaning of her life, but she had wrestled with this same question as one who was living: should she stay in Oregon to stay closer to Adam, the boy she had intense connection with, or follow her dream of going to Julliard if she was accepted, and make a new life in New York. Detail was given to each parent, the way they were as individuals in the present day, and how they transformed into what they are from years back, before Mia was born. Many references to music, both punk and classical, are weaved throughout the book as well. Not until the very end do we know what Mia's choice will be. If I Stay is an excellent read for teens going through a tough personal struggle as well as a great choice for parents.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Belva Plain

Best selling romance writer Belva Plain has died at the age of 95. At her death, there were over 30 million copies of her twenty-plus novels in print in 22 languages. Twenty of her novels appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Ms. Plain was known for telling wholesome, inspirational multi-generational sagas of families and the women who held them together. Her first novel, Evergreen, was published in 1978 and told the story of Anna, a Polish orphan who immigrates to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. After choosing to become a domestic servant, she marries and begins to guide her family through the next decades.

So if you’re looking for a good saga you can sink your teeth into and that’s sure to have sequels, try the writings of the beloved Belva Plain.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie's book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a wonderful coming of age story.  Junior lives on the Spokane Indian reservation and has found that he needs a better education than what he is receiving in his community. He takes the great leap to attending an all white high school in a neighboring farm town.

As he learns to adjust to his new classmates and they to him, he is being called a traitor by his friends on the "rez."  He discovers that this is a year of challenges both in his personal life - several family tragedies - and his school life - competing with his old school on the basketball court.

Alexie provides the reader with a great character who takes his punches but still manages to keep his sense of humor about life and himself.  He challenges the reader to think about the strength it takes to go against the grain and make changes to your life. Ellen Forney provides the illustrations that add so much to the story and provide the reader with more insight into Junior's character and his cartooning. Take a chance on this National Book Award winner. It is a fun read for both teens and adults.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dame Joan Sutherland

Dame Joan Sutherland (November 7, 1926-October 10, 2010) was named "La Stupenda" by her fans and is best known for the bel canto operas of Donizetti and Bellini.

She made her concert debut in Sydney, as Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, in 1947 and made her operatic debut in Judith, in 1951. In 1952, she first performed as the First Lady in Mozart's The Magic Flute, at London's Royal Opera House.

Sutherland's Methropolitan Opera debut took place on November 26, 1961, when she sang Lucia di Lammermoor. Her last appearance there was on December 19, 1987, when she sang in Il trovatore. Other noteworthy operas she has performed are Lakme, Les Huguenots, Semiramide, Don Giovanni, La Sonnambula, Les contes d'Hoffmann, Gigoletto, Turandot, Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Midsummer Marriage, and Norma.

In 1961, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and also named the Australian of the Year. In the Queen's Birthday Honours of June 9, 1975, she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia. In the New Year's Honours of 1979, she was elevated from Commander to Dame Commander.

On November 29, 1991, the Queen bestowed on Dame Joan the Order of Marit. In January 2004 she received the Australia Post Australian Legends Award. Two stamps featuring Joan Sutherland were issued on Australia Day 2004. Laster in 2004, she received a Kennedy Center Honor.

In her own words, given in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, her biggest achievement was to sing the title role in Esclarmonde in 1971.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spotlight on International Fiction: Russia

The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall
Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy--until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count. Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever

The Line by Olga Grushin
When rumors about an exiled composer's return to Moscow for a farewell symphony spark power abuses among officials and bureaucrats, a disparate gaggle of strangers evolves into a community of friends bonded by long-buried memories..

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight by Gina Ochsner
Tanya carries a notebook wherever she goes, recording her observations and her dreams of finding love and escaping her job at the All-Russia All-Cosmopolitan Museum, a place which holds a fantastic and terrible collection of art knockoffs created using the tools at hand, from foam to chewing gum, Popsicle sticks to tomato juice. When the museum's director hears of a mysterious American group seeking to fund art in Russia, it looks like she might get her chance at a better life, if she can only convince them of the collection's worth. Enlisting the help of Azade, Olga and even Mircha, Tanya scrambles to save her dreams and her neighbors, and along the way discovers that love may have been waiting in her own courtyard all along.

Three Stations: an Arkady Renko: a novel by Martin Cruz Smith
Struggling with a prosecutor's refusal to send work his way, investigator Arkady Renko of Moscow finds his efforts to watch out for teen chess prodigy Zhenya challenged by a case involving a kidnapped baby, a dead prostitute, and police corruption..

Russian Winter: a novel by Daphne Kalotay
Former Bolshoi ballerina Nina Revskaya auctions off her jewelry collection and becomes overwhelmed by memories of her homeland, the friends she left behind amidst Stalinist aggression, and the dark secret that brought her to a new life in Boston..

City of Thieves: a novel by David Benioff
Documenting his grandparents' experiences during the siege of Leningrad, a young writer learns his grandfather's story about how a military deserter and he tried to secure pardons by gathering hard-to-find ingredients for a powerful colonel's daughter's wedding cake..

New in armchair travel:

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier
Examines the unforgivable region of Siberia, including its geography, resources, native peoples, and history, with stories of Mongols, fur seekers, tea caravans, American prospectors, prisoners, and exiles of every kind.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Leftovers by Laura Wiess

Another page-turner from the author of Such a Pretty Girl, Leftovers is another brilliant weaving of an unfortunate teenage existance.

Ardith and Blair are not likely friends but the two become best friends and find some common ground as both live with a dysfunctional family. Blair, only child to an up-and-coming judge to whom "appearance is everything" and professional father who dims in her limelight, befriends Ardith, who lives among keg parties and her parents unwillingness to grow up, along with an obnoxious older brother and his many friends that grace their house.

Both girls could for the most part fade into the furniture, that is how unimportant they are to their families. Though Blair is from a wealthy home, she is also emotionally abandoned by both parents, who are always out about town with the other socialites, even on Christmas, except to dictate to Blair who she is to be seen with and how she should act. Ardith is trying to build a life for herself by staying out of all the trouble she has in her home, even to the point of sleeping with a hammer near her pillow and padlocking her bedroom door every night. Blair is raped by Ardith's brother, and Ardith wanted no more than to see her brother pay for that, plus all of his other other narcissistic ways. Blair wants nothing but her old dog Wendy, her old house, and old life back, and Ardith is trying to escape her current living condition, dreaming of one day become a podiatrist. A rumor sets the story in motion...

As the reader, I hoped the girls would seek revenge in a way that they would gain confidence in themselves and eleviate the hurt they had been feeling. The way did this was both remarkable and unexpected.

Leftovers can be seen as a psychological thriller, as the way the girls schemed to get back at those who had shattered their teenage years was absolutely brilliant. A shocking story of those who are abandoned by society, and the consequences it leads to. Excellent read for mature teens and for anyone who has ever felt alienated in their lives.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Do You Want to Dance?

Are you a fan of the reality TV show Dancing With the Stars? Do you wish you can dance like the professionals or do you just enjoy watching them?
One of the stars on this show is Jennifer Grey, who was in the movie Dirty Dancing. Check out her moves in this 1987 movie.

Moreover, there is a fitness DVD with your favorite instructors Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Cheryl Burke, and a Wii video game under that very same reality show title.

Whether you want to learn how to dance the tango or the waltz, exercise to music or just watch a good musical, the library has the DVD or the Video game for you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

October Artist of the Month - Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma, cellist, composer, pedagogue was born on October 7, 1955 in Paris to Chinese parents.

As a child prodigy, he began performing at the age of five, and performed for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was seven. At age eight, he and his sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma appeared on American television in a concert conducted by leonard Bernstein.

Ma currently plays with his own Silk Road Ensemble. Ma's principal instrument is the cello nicknamed Petunia, built by Domenico Montagnana in 1733. This cello is more than 270 years old and valued at US$2.5 million.

In 1997 he was featured on John Williams' soundtrack to the Hollywood film, Seven Years in Tibet. In 2000, he was heard on the soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and in 2003 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. He also has over 75 albums, 15 of which are Grammy Award winners.

Ma was named Peace Ambassador in January 2006. On November 3, 2009, President Obama appointed Ma to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Ma performed a duet with Condoleezza Rice at the presentation of the 2001 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Awards. Ma was the first performer on September 11, 2002, at the site of the World Trade Ceter. He performed a special arrangement of Sting's "Fragile" during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in salt Lake City, Utah.

He performed John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts" at the inauguration ceremony fro Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, along with Itzhak Perman, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill. On August 29, 2009, Ma performed at the funeral mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Friday, October 8, 2010