Monday, December 29, 2014

Taking Stock in the New Year

The New Year is a natural time for looking at where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Many of us recall the dire predictions in late 1999 of a Y2K disaster.  Although computers did not fail on January 1, 2000 as some had feared, an avalanche of dystopian novels seemed to follow. One recent book that explores the perils of technology is Dave Eggers’ The Circle, which satirizes an internet utopia created through social media.

In the novel, Mae Holland is devoted to her job at a giant internet company, where she joins the other employees in her obsession with constant communication, attention, and recognition. Eventually she abandons her family, friends, privacy – and in the end, her identity -- for professional success. At first, the world Eggers presents looks very familiar, but slowly it morphs into a nightmare in which “the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters” (Margaret Atwood). Can sharing and caring really become oppressive, even evil? Eggers' book has been compared to Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), 1984 (George Orwell), Fahrenheit451 (Ray Bradbury), and The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood).

So why do books like these appeal to readers? Maybe it’s a relief to close the book and think:  At least it’s not that bad – yet! The Circle, with its many fans and critics, would be a good book for discussion.

Other recent dystopian books include:
California – Edan Lepucki
Spark: A Novel- John Twelve Hawks
Tomorrow and TomorrowSweterlitsch, Thomas
The BeesLaline Paull
Red RisingPierce Brown
Archetype: A NovelM.D. Waters
Lighthouse IslandPaulette Jiles
The Dog StarsPeter Heller
When She Woke Hillary Jordan
ZazenVanessa Veselka

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It’s Complicated – Fragile Families for Teens

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. The one thing you can depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, is that word gets around - fast. When Grandpa E. Rucker Blakeslee announces one July morning in 1906 that he's aiming to marry the young and freckledy milliner, Miss Love Simpson - a bare three weeks after Granny Blakeslee has gone to her reward - the news is served up all over town with that afternoon's dinner. And young Will Tweedy suddenly finds himself eyewitness to a major scandal.

Donorboy by Brendan Helprin. Rosalind had two mommies. Now, thanks to a tragic accident involving foodstuffs, she has none. And Sean, the sperm donor responsible for half her DNA (and nothing else), is taking custody. Rosalind finds herself adjusting to a new life that seems both hateful and surreal-she's an orphan with a new father, surrounded by friends she is beginning to despise and well-meaning adults who succeed only in annoying her.

More Than This by Patrick Ness. A boy named Seth drowns, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What's going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman. Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and cannot function, relates his perceptions of his life, his family, and his condition, especially as he believes his father is planning to kill him.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Laugh your way into the New Year!

I am always amazed at how quickly the holidays descend upon us. I never feel like I am ready and with New Year's so close to Christmas I am always making plans last minute. And this year is no different. However, this year one of my resolutions is to have more fun so here is a short list of TV shows to make me laugh in the new year. I hope they will do the same for you. Laughter really is the best medicine.

Modern Family
30 Rock
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Everybody Loves Raymond
The Office
The Best of Dick Van Dyke

Monday, December 15, 2014

Memorable Books from 2014

I read a number of great books this past year, but as I reflect on my reading in 2014, these are the books that I find myself recommending over and over to others. All were published in either 2013 or 2014.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  (2014)
“From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.” (annotation from the publisher)

A National Book Award Finalist

Probably best known for her cartoons that appear regularly in the New Yorker, Roz Chast’s extremely candid autobiographical graphic memoir about caring for her aging parents should not be missed. With bluntness and humor Chast reveals the struggles of an only child doing her best to care for her parents at the end of their lives.

A National Book Award Finalist

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion  (2013)

Don Tillman, Australian professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a "wonderful" husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project.

In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. He sets up a project designed to find the perfect wife, starting with a questionnaire that has to be adjusted a bit as he goes along. Don's potential wife will be punctual and logical, most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Then he meets Rosie Jarman, who is everything he's not looking for in a wife. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent, and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically-minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie, and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper. (annotation from World Cat)

The audiobook is nicely narrated by Dan O’Grady.
 The Rosie Effect, a follow-up novel, is due out this month.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)
This intriguing story alternates between two main characters. The reader gets to know 16-year-old Japanese teenager, Nao Yasutani, through the diary she writes...possibly her last words and thoughts. Nao, who is relentlessly bullied at school and also struggling to understand the severe depression of her father, is contemplating suicide. First, though, she intends to record the life story of her great-grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun in her diary. But Nao also includes her own life story in the diary that eventually washes up on a shore in Vancouver Island, Canada.

Ruth, a middle-aged author (Ozeki gives this character her own name), discovers Nao's diary carefully wrapped in a plastic bag along with some old letters in French and a vintage watch. She begins to investigate how the bag traveled from Japan to her island, and why it contains what it does. Nao’s sincere teenage voice powerfully connects to Ruth as she reads slowly through the diary. Her desire to know what becomes of Nao is profound.

Time (don't waste it!), the meaning of life, spirituality, Buddhism, philosophy, and myth are among the themes examined in this unusual novel that begs to be discussed.

Ozeki masterfully narrates the audiobook version of this novel.

The Louise Penny Armand Gamache series

I am not an avid mystery reader, yet I have become completely captivated with the Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series by Louise Penny. A couple of years ago, I read the first book in Penny’s series, Still Life (2006). I liked it, but at the time I had not yet discovered the absolutely wonderful audiobook versions of this series narrated by Ralph Cosham. Over this past year I caught up with most of the remaining titles in the series by listening to them. If you are a fan of this series and have not yet sampled an audio version, I urge you to do so.

This leisurely-paced mystery series set in Canada revolves around Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of homicide of the Sûreté du Québec. The setting of many of the books is the small, charming village of Three Pines, outside of Montreal and not far from the Vermont border. As the Gamache series progresses, the reader comes to know the residents of Three Pines quite well—their positive traits, their flaws, their connections to one another. Each mystery in the series is intricate and unusual, yet it is the complex characters and their development throughout the series that keep drawing me back to these books.

This year Penny published the 10th title in the series, The Long Way Home, the only title I have yet to read. 

Louse Penny has won 5 Agatha Awards and received many other accolades for her work. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Things to do at the Library

The Library is the happening place to be for families, young and old alike. There are programs for all, from educational to purely recreational. There are discussions to suit everyone’s taste: on books - Page Turners, BookIt!, and Book Bites.; on music- The Music Room and Lyric Opera Lectures. Don’t forget the workshops on how to download eBooks and eAudiobooks to your devices.

This month, to get you in the holiday spirit, come Dec. 14 to listen to Carols of Olde England and on Dec. 21, watch the classic movie Christmas in Connecticut.

For Teens, every second Friday of the month there’s Game Night, where you can play video games on the big screen and enjoy pop and pizza with it. Meet your friends to study at one of the meeting rooms for Finals Week, and for the holidays, come and make Festive Cake Pops on Dec. 20.

For more information on these programs, and to register, please check the calendar at the Library’s website

Yes, the weather outside will get frightful…but no worries; there is a lovely fireplace at the Library, where you can sit and warm up with your cup of covered beverage.   Read a newspaper or magazine while you relax, or start reading or listening to that great book!

See you there!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kennedy Center Honors - 2014

The Kennedy Center Honors will take place at the White House on December 7, 2014 and will be broadcast on CBS on December 30, 2014.

Al Green (Singer and songwriter, born April 13, 1946 in Forrest City, Arkansas) (R&B, soul, smooth soul, blues, gospel)

He has sold more than 20 million albums, won 11 Grammy, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 Grammy Awards.  Rolling Stone ranked him as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Green's first single was a cover of the Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand," under Memphis's Hi Records.

His first gold single was "Tired of being Alone," which reached No. 11 on the pop charts and No. 7 on the R&B charts in 1971.  Other gold singles included, "You Ought to Be with Me," "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," and "Take Me to the River."

In 1976, Green was ordained pastor of the full Gospel Tabernacle Church, but he continued to pursue his pop career.  In 1979 he limited his public appearances to religious services in churches across the country.

At the 2009 Grammy Awards, he performed "Let's Stay Together" with Justin Timberlake.

Tom Hanks (Actor, director, producer, writer, born July 9, 1956 in Concord, California)

In 1980, Hanks dropped out of California State University and was cast as Kip Wilson on the sitcom Bosom Buddies.  He later appeared on Happy Days, Taxi, The Love Boat, and Family Ties.  In 1984 he starred in Ron Howard's hit Splash and later they would work together on Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

In 1988, he was cast in Big, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.  He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the movie Philadelphia, as well as Forest Gump in 1994.

Hanks has worked with Steven Speilberg in Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, as well as Band of Brothers and The Pacific.  Spielberg's tribute to Hanks when he won his AFI Life Achievement Award - "Tom Hanks' achievements in film are very many, but perhaps his greatest contribution so far is that he instills a great hope in us all for a world where ordinary people have a voice."

Among his other achievements, Broadway Lucky Guy - 2013 Tony Award nomination, the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame, national spokesperson for the World War II Memorial Campaign and honorary chairperson of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign.

Patricia McBride (Ballerina and teacher, born August 23, 1942 in Teaneck, New Jersey)

At the age of 14 McBride moved to New York City where she was a scholarship student at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet.  At 18, she became the company's youngest principal dancer.

McBride performed many dance choreographed by Balanchine at the New York City Ballet, including Columbine in Harlequinade, Tarantella, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Rubies, and Who Cares?  Jerome Robbins created "Girl in Pink" in Dances at a Gathering and "Fall" in The Four Seasons.

In 1970, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux joined New York City Ballet and in 1973 the two were married.  In 1979, she became Mikhail Baryshnikov's new partner and performed in Coppella.

In June 1989, McBride gave her farewell performance.  She has since become the Associate Artistic Director and a Master Teacher at Charlotte Ballet were her husband serves as President and Artistic Director.

Sting (Musician, composer, author and actor, born Gordon Sumner on October 2, 1951 in Wallsend, England)

Sting was born Gordon Sumner and was named of of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2011.  He has earned 16 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award and three Oscar nominations.

A fellow band member in the Phoenix Jazzmen nicknamed him Sting after Gordeon was wearing a yellow striped sweater.

While with the band The Police, its 1978 debut album Outlandos d'Amour had the hits "ROxanne," "Can't Stand Losing You," and "So Lonely."  Their final studio album was Synchronicity.

After leaving The Police, Sting had the lead role in the films Brimstone and Treacle, Stormy Monday and The Bridge and had supporting parts in Plenty, Dune and Julia and Julia.  He also starred as Machealth in Kurt Weill's 3 Penny Opera and as himself in the film Lock, Stock, and Two smoling Barrels.

His first solo album was The Dream of the Blue Turtles in 1985 and reunited with former members for The Police Reunion Tour in 2007.

In 2014, Sting wrote The Last Ship which is set in the Swan Hunter shipyard where Sting grew up.  It features character from his past and his imagination.

He was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Lily Tomlin (Actress, comedian, writer and producer born September 1, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan) Lily Tomlin was born Mary Jean Tomlin. 

Her favorite women comedians included Lucille Ball, Bea Lilie, Imogene Coca and Jean Carroll.  She left college to become a performer at local coffee houses and performed at The Improv, the Bitter End and Upstairs at the Downstairs.

Her television debut was in 1966 on The Garry Moore Show.  Later is appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in 1969.  Her favorite characters were Ernestine, the power-mad telephone operator and six year old Edith Ann.

In addition to producing her own Emmy Award winning comedy television special, she has guest starred on The Carol Burnett Show, Homicide, X-Files, Will and Grace, Desperate Housewives, NCIS, Eastbound and Down, Damages, and Sesame Street.  She starred in And the Band Played On, Murphy Brown, The West Wing and Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus.

On Broadway, she appeard in Appearing Nitely (1977) and The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985)

Tomlin's films include Nashville, 9 to 5, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, The Late Show, Beverly Hillbillies, All of Me, Disney's The Kid, big Business and Short Cuts and I Heart Huckabees, Prairie Home Companion and Admission.

In 2009, her show debuted at The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas - Not Playing with a Full Deck.  She won the 2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, seven Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Grammy, and two Peabody Awards.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

P.D. James

The world lost a stellar member of the crime-writing world last week. Phyllis Dorothy James, known to her many devoted followers as P.D. James, passed away on November 27th at the age of 94. Dubbed "The Queen of Crime", she was most famous for her series of detective novels featuring police commander Adam Dalgliesh. Her novels had intricate plots and psychologically complex characters. She accumulated numerous awards for the 18 crime novels produced during a writing career spanning a half-century. Seven of her mysteries were adapted for the public-television series “Mystery!” and were broadcast in Britain and the United States. Her last novel, “Death Comes to Pemberley” (2011), is a sequel and homage to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and was adapted for a television mini-series in Britain in 2013.

If you're not familiar with James' works, here are a few titles to get you started reading this marvelous author.
A Taste For Death
Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates the throat-slash murders, in a London Church, of Sir Paul Berowne, former Minister of State, and a tramp named Harry Mack, murders that lead Dalgliesh onto surprising English pathways.
The Private Patient
When investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn turns up dead after seeing renowned plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell for a routine surgical procedure, Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to investigate. The last in the Adam Dalgliesh series.
The Children of Men
The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James has based this novel on Pride and prejudice, written by Jane Austen, and upon the characters within it. Six years after her marriage, Elizabeth Darcy is happily living with her husband and two sons at Pemberley, when, after the end of their annual autumn ball, an uninvited guest arrives in a chaise from the woods surrounding the estate screaming that her husband has been murdered, thereby shattering Elizabeth's peaceful life.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Little Yuletide Murder

The Christmas season is here and if you're anything like me, you love a good seasonal murder mystery. The atmosphere is perfect for a great holiday whodunit. So hurry and wrap up you're shopping and curl up with one of these yuletide favorites.

Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
A New York Christmas by Anne Perry
Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich
Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
Festive in Death by J.D. Robb
Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier
A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange by Isis Crawford

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Year's End Notable Books - 2014

Towards the end of the year I always seem to become interested in award winning books for that year. I try to catch up on any I may have missed before the dawn of the New Year.  My favorite authoritative source is the American Library Association's list of important works of fiction.  Since 1944, The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, has announced a list of important works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books produced that year.

The ALA Notable Books - Fiction: 2014 are as follows:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
Ursula Todd is born on a cold snowy night in 1910 -- twice. As she grows up during the first half of the twentieth century in Britain Ursula dies and is brought back to life again and again. With a seemingly infinite number of lives it appears as though Ursula has the ability to alter the history of the world, should she so choose. 

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
The interconnected secrets of a coastal Haitian town are revealed when one little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, goes missing.

Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey
In a look at mental illness that weaves together three timelines, Greyson Todd leaves his successful Hollywood career and wife and young daughter to travel the world, giving free reign to the bipolar disorder he has been forced to keep hidden for almost twenty years.

Enon by Paul Harding
A devastating portrait of a father desperately trying to come to terms with the loss of his beloved thirteen-year-old daughter, killed in an accident.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
Haunted by the successes of a long-time rival and unable to let go of his love for a woman who got away, an aspiring writer, determined to discover and tell the truth about the trio's falling out, struggles to untangle a complicated web of lies.

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Meeting at an Amsterdam restaurant for dinner, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons' act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and revealed the extent to which each family will go to protect those they love.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
This debut novel by Pushcart Prize-winning author Anthony Marra is set in rural Chechnya during the region's war with Russia. Though events shift in time, the main focus is a five-day period in 2004, when an eight-year-old girl witnesses her father's abduction by Russian soldiers. Swearing to protect the girl, local doctor Akhmed (whose true passion is portraiture), brings her to a crumbling hospital, run by a hardened but dedicated surgeon, for safety.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Relegated to the status of schoolteacher and friendly neighbor after abandoning her dreams of becoming an artist, Nora advocates on behalf of a charismatic Lebanese student and is drawn into the child's family until his artist mother's careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki
Nao Yasutani is a Japanese schoolgirl who plans to kill herself as a way of escaping her dreary life. First, though, she intends to write in her diary the life story of her great-grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun. But Nao actually ends up writing her own life story, and the diary eventually washes up on the shore of Canada's Vancouver Island, where a novelist called Ruth lives. Ruth finds the diary in a freezer bag with some old letters in French and a vintage watch and begins to investigate how the bag traveled from Japan to her island, and why it contains what it does.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Taken in by a wealthy family friend after surviving an accident that killed his mother, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker tries to adjust to life on Park Avenue.

How many on this list do you need to catch up on?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ten Books to Read Before Seeing the Movie

Read the book? Here is a list of highly anticipated movies based on books coming in 2015.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
January 16, 2015
Feeling at the top of her game when she is suddenly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease, Harvard psychologist Alice Howland struggles to find meaning and purpose in her life as her concept of self gradually slips away.

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
February 13, 2015
When Anastasia Steele, a young literature student, interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, their initial meeting introduces Anastasia to an exciting new world that will change them both forever.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
March 20, 2015
When Anastasia Steele, a young literature student, interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, their initial meeting introduces Anastasia to an exciting new world that will change them both forever. Second in the Divergent trilogy.

Serena by Ron Rash
March 27, 2015
Traveling to the mountains of 1929 North Carolina to forge a timber business with her new husband, Serena Pemberton champions her mastery of harsh natural and working conditions but turns murderous when she learns she cannot bear children.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
April 10, 2015
After being trapped in an isolated car crash, the life of an elderly widower becomes entwined with that of a young college student and the cowboy she loves.

Paper Towns by John Green
July 31, 2015
One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 
October 2, 2015
A monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator. Includes illustrated notes throughout the text explaining the historical background of the story.

Mockingjay (Part 2) by Suzanne Collins
November 20, 2015
A monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator. 

The Martian by Andy Weir
November 25, 2015
Stranded on Mars by a dust storm that compromised his space suit and forced his crew to leave him behind, astronaut Watney struggles to survive in spite of minimal supplies and harsh environmental challenges that test his ingenuity in unique ways.

Inferno by Dan Brown
December 18, 2015
In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces--Dante's Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle.