Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Something different

I thought I'd share a neat story forwarded to me by a cousin in Georgia about some libraries in Scotland.  I think this story gets at part of why we love to read:  to expand our world and to connect with other minds. 

This blog from Scotland traces the mysterious appearance of ten paper sculptures in libraries and museums in Edinburgh.

E.M.--Reference Desk

Monday, November 14, 2011

That used to be us : how America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back

In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum speak out and say the things Americans need to hear.  They identify four challenges --globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption--and spell out what needs to done to sustain America's position as a world leader. Although I don’t agree with every point they make, I admire their candor.  The points they make about education are especially on-target. 

DM—Reference Desk


A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize winning novel is one of my favorites.  I sometimes hesitate to recommend it as it might be a bit too "English Major" for some as the characters are for the most part Victorian poets or contemporary scholars.  People like me love all the literary references.  When I read this book aloud to my husband on a long car trip, it was wonderful characters--some pure of heart, others villanous--and the deft story telling that won him over.  The research of the scholars becomes like great detective work, the clever unfolding of the plot will make any reader want to stay up late turning pages. 

EM--Reference desk

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Global Girlfriends: How one mom made it her business to help women in poverty worldwide

This book tells the story of Stacey Edgar, a Colorado mom, who invested her $2,000 income tax refund to begin a program that would help poor women around the world.  She founded Global Girlfriends to help create a fair trade market that would specialize in handmade clothing, jewelry, baskets and other items.  As you read this book, you can follow the steps of growth of the project and meet some of the women in distant places in Africa, Asia and South America.  Her organization is now affiliated with Greater Good (another fair trade group) and the Whole Foods markets.  Her products are also available through the website http://www.globalgirlfriend.com/  The book includes links to other groups that are helping women worldwide. If you are interested in fair trade products, I would urge you to explore this book and website.

--Marquette Township Patron 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark tells two stories that take place in the same bungalow in India, almost 100 years apart.  The more contemporary story takes place just as the British are preparing to leave, and the other takes place during an uprising that took place in 1857.  The 1947 story revolves around an American couple that has travel on one of the first Fullbright fellowships.  The historian husband is emotionally wounded from World War II, and his wife is struggling to keep their marriage together.  The Victorian occupants, two young women, are struggling to dodge their parent's plans to marry them off.  The stories are skillfully entertwined and engaging.  Fans of historical fiction and novels about the meetings of different cultures will enjoy this novel.

--EM Reference Desk

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Lazarus Project

Billiantly written and set in both 1908 Chicago and contemporary Chicago and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Aleksandar Hemon's book The Lazarus Project links the murder of Lazarus Averbuch, an Eastern European immigrant, by Chicago's Chief of Police in 1908, with a contemporary fictional trip to Eastern Europe. The trip's purpose is to trace Lazarus's early life and journey to America but it also provides the narrator, a recent immigrant from Bosnia, a chance to visit his homeland which has been destroyed by the recent war. Hemon builds an awesome parallel structure between the two stories filled with irony and dark humor. He links attitudes and actions of his characters and history to current American attitudes and biases.  It's a very complex book and can be frustrating--not every question finds an answer-- but it is a very impressive work of literature.

Cathy Sullivan Seblonka, Youth services

Monday, October 3, 2011

South of Superior

I just finished reading South of Superior this weekend and now I miss it.  If you haven't already heard, it is the first novel from Ellen Airgood who runs the West Bay Diner with her husband in Grand Marais.  Not only is this story set in the U.P., it's the kind of story that is likely to have wide appeal.  I'm already creating a list of friends and relatives who live in far away places to whom I could give a copy for Christmas. 

The story revolves around two elderly sisters who have lived their entire lives in a small U.P. community, quite similar to Grand Marais.  One sister has had some serious health complications so the sisters have hired a younger, thirty-something woman from Chicago as a live-in caretaker.  This third woman has family ties to the area but has never before been to the U.P.  Though the novel stays closest to this younger woman's point of view, it is in many ways as much a story of the entire community as it is about her. 

One of the strengths is the sense of balance in this book.  The characters are all flawed, all make grievous mistakes.  Almost all have something likeable about them as well.  The pacing of events is just right.  The descriptions-- beautifully written.  The balance of story and character and setting--dead-on.

EM - Reference desk

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Three multicultural titles

If you are interested in multicultural books, I would recommend the following books:

Little Princes: One man's promise to bring home the lost children of Nepal by Conor Grennan  

A young American begins by volunteering in an orphanage and returns to reunite Nepalese children with their families after long separations due to war and child-trafficking.

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

This is a memoir of a Palestinian doctor whose three daughters were killed by the Israeli shelling of Gaza.  He is working for peace and reconciliation by encouraging dialog between all the people of the area.  It is his hope that the deaths of his daughters will be the "last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis."

The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji

This fictional account of a young American woman who discovers her roots in Pakistan covers a wide range of geography and history reaching from present day Iraq and Pakistan back to returning veterans of the Vietnam War.  Her family history helps us to learn about Muslim traditions and how family members can come together and heal.

Marquette Township Patron

Monday, August 15, 2011

Could it be B12? : an epidemic of misdiagnoses by Sally M. Pacholok

When loved ones get ill and questions arise as to what is wrong, sometimes the library is a good place to find answers. A new PWPL book did just that for me recently; it answered questions. Large doses of B-12 were given to my father after a recent fall and mild concussion because a B-12 deficiency was discovered during the array of tests. As I read this book, I saw many of his symptoms come alive right before my eyes. As I got deeper into the book, more of his symptoms showed up. I wouldn’t use a library book to diagnose myself, but after reading this book, I’m glad they have my dad on doses of B-12 and wish they were still giving him the mega-doses.

vjm, Reference Desk Staff

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Knowing your value : women, money, and getting what you're worth by Mika Brzezinski

As fans of MSNBC’s Morning Jo already know, Mika Brzezinski has a knack for keeping a balance to any political argument.  In knowing your worth, Brzezinski uses her talent for seeing issues from all sides to look at the age old salary gap problem.  She interviews both successful men and women (such as Susie Essman and Joy Behar) to examine why women have so much difficulty getting the compensation they deserve. 

D.M. – Reference desk. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

Eliot Rosewater is heir to a large fortune. In the mean time, he runs the family's charitable organization. Though it was originally intended as a tax shelter, he takes the job to heart.

God Bless includes biting social commentary and depicts the troubles of post-industrialism in a way that is still relevant today. Written in 1965, it is less complicated than Vonnegut's later work.

BAM-- Circulation Department

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Spell on the Water by Marjorie Cole

When Mary Leader’s husband died the summer of 1957, everyone expected her to sell the lakeside resort in northern lower Michigan where they had been spending their summers, settle down in Chicago and collect welfare while she raised their five children with the support of her in-laws.  When she returned to the resort that fall to close it down, she devised a different plan. 

A Spell on the Water is told from alternating points of view of different family members and spans 15 years.  One of the strengths of this book is how well balanced it is.  Each scene is carefully drawn out; the pacing is exactly right.  Each family member is a developing character.  Mary learns both her strengths and limitations as a parent and provider.  Each child in turn learns how to survive childhood and forge a path outside of the family. 

When I first met Marjorie Cole in 1988, she was a librarian and I was a graduate student in a creative writing program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Little did I know then that almost 20 years later she would be visiting me in Marquette, MI.  In 2006 she came to give a reading from her first book, Bellwether Prize winning Correcting the Landscape,  here at the Peter White Public Library.  Marjorie died of cancer in 2009, shortly before this latest novel was accepted for publication.  She was an environmentalist, an expansive thinker, and a role model. 

E.M. -- Reference Desk

Monday, July 11, 2011

Smokin' 17 by Janet Evanovich

This book was just a hoot.  Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is back with her best friend and co-worker, Lula, and Lula’s ever expanding spandex wardrobe.  Through the course of this page turner, Stephanie undergoes a series of curses that first makes her insatiable, despite having two handsome love interests at her disposal, and then leaves her exhausted.  Meanwhile, her mother is trying to introduce a third “nice boy who cooks.”  As it turns out, he’s not as nice as he looks, and is just another in the list of people trying to kill her. 

D.G. -- Circulation

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

“Do you intend to tell me the truth?”  This debut novel tells the story of two women: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose own life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, book loving girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop.  Vida has told her “story” many times but differently each time, to her biographers over the years.  Vida invites Margaret to finally record her last biography because of some of her previous biographical work.  Margaret stays with Vida in Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to untangle the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby.  In all of this Margaret wonders if Vida is really telling the truth or if this is another one of her “stories.”  Full of intrigue and suspense, this book is one that will stay with you. 

AB--Tech services and reference

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dead Reckoning.

My daughter and I are True Blood fans, and we have been avid readers of Charlaine Harris' books featuring Sookie Stackhouse ever since reading Book #1, Dead until Dark.  And we are not alone.  I was delighted (although not surprised) to read that her newest book, Dead Reckoning, is at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list. Harris' mixture of Southern hospitality, a surreal community fey consisting of vampires, werewolves, fairies, elves, demons, etc., evangelicals and violence is truly an addictive experience. Read a couple of pages and I caution that you may develop an insatiable appetite for things weird and wonderful.

L.S., Reference Department

Monday, June 20, 2011

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The death of the head of the family, Evan who adored his two adult daughters, Meredith and Nina, and his Russian wife Anya rocks this family into understanding one another better.  Evan had his daughters promise to get their mother to tell them again the elaborate fairy tales she used to tell them as children.  Nina jumps on this and convinces her mother to tell the stories and eventually Nina understands that they are actual stories of her mother’s life in Leningrad during World War II.  Nina and Meredith decide to try and get the whole truth out of her.  To see that their mother had an entirely different life than they could have imagined, Meredith and Nina come to terms with the love that Anya has for a former lover, their father, and even themselves.  This is a little laughter and a little tear-jerker of a book that brings a family closer together.

--AB, Technical services and Reference

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The latest Jayne Ann Krentz Arcane Society titles

Jayne Ann Krentz has just published her eleventh book in the Arcane Society Series. Each of the eleven titles in this paranormal suspense series can be read as a stand-alone, but it is more enjoyable to read the series in the order that they were written. The books are also written under her pen names Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle. Ms. Krentz has a website for the series that can be found at http://www.krentzquick.com/arcanehouse/interior.html

The Looking Glass Trilogy is the newest addition to the series.

Scargill Cove, California is the setting for In Too Deep, book one in the new trilogy.  

Fallon Jones has moved the headquarters of the Jones & Jones detective agency to Scargill Cove, a town of unusually strong physic energy. This character is seen in previous Arcane books as a  solitary man who looks for and finds logic patterns in everything with his physic talent. In In Too Deep, he hires Isabella Valdez to organize his office, not knowing that she is running away from very dangerous men out to kill her.

The attraction between these two is strong and mutual, but a woman on the run, a woman who's undocumented and who lives her life as a conspiracy theory, would seem a bad match for an ultra-logical detective who only believes what he can prove. Isabella’s physic gifts help her realize that the haunted house she is investigating for J&J is not just haunted by a ghost. Together Isabella and Fallon find an antique clock, infused with dark energies. They are forced to fight for their lives and solve a century old conspiracy in the Arcane Society.

The second book in the Looking Glass trilogy is Quicksilver, written under Krentz’s pen name Amanda Quick. This book takes place in Victorian era London, England.

Virginia Dean is in trade as a powerful glass-reader, which means she can see the historical imprints like photographs in mirrors. One day, she wakes up in a room surrounded by mirrors next to a dead body with absolutely no memory of what happened to her.  There seems to be no way in or out.  Owen Sweetwater, a “psychical” hunter and a gentleman, literally swoops in to her rescue and gets her out of that mirrored room.
Owen has inherited his family talent for finding the psychical monsters that prey on innocent women & children. With the aid of Mrs. Crofton, Virginia’s housekeeper, they follow the clues that lead them to the man who murdered two other glasslight readers with his Quicksilver Mirror weapon and clockwork toys.

Both books are good summer reads. They are a mixture of paranormal flavored suspense and romance.  Krentz  has the propensity for creating inventive plots with two perfectly matched protagonists. Her women are always strong and her men have a fatal flaw that only one woman can help them overcome.

--S.S. Reference Department

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mozart and the Whale

I was eavesdropping in a bookstore when I learned about this jointly written memoir of a couple, both savants on the autistic spectrum.  He's a mathematical genius, she's a visual artist and musician.  I rushed back to work at the library only to learn we don't have a copy. Then I did what I always do when Peter White Public Library doesn't have something I want; I searched the other libraries that share our catalog and obtained an interlibrary loan copy a few days later. 

The couple meets at a support group Halloween party (he’s dressed as a whale, she’s dressed as Mozart’s sister). Much of the book is dedicated the their life stories.  Both grew up before Asperger Syndrome made it to the diagnostic manual and were seen as problem kids and both had pretty much given up finding a soul mate before they met.  And it took several years and separation for them to learn to manage their relationship. 

Further research told me there’s a fictionalized movie of their story with the same title.  Again, Peter White doesn't have a copy, but I put a hold on it.  I hope I get it today.

EM Reference Department

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Widower's Tale

I listened to this Julia Glass novel on CD.  Julia Glass drew a lot of attention when her first novel, Three Junes (2003), won the national book award.

I love audio books.  I know a lot of people who drive for a living check them out.  Our collection gets hit particularly hard between Thanksgiving and Christmas when many of our patrons hit the highways on the way to visit relatives.  I listen to books while I knit. 

I chose The Widower's Tale because I liked Three Junes so much-- I liked how Glass got into her character's heads and seemed equally apt at covering male and female points of view, old and young, gay and straight.  I liked how even though the characters told the story, the reader (or listener) had a better understanding of the events and connections within the plot than the characters did. 

The Widower's Tale is also told from a variety of character's point of view, but it doesn't cover as much ground as does Three Junes.  The narrators are all male and they all live in Massachusetts.  In an interview Glass said she likes to use male voices as a way of fictionalizing parts of herself, but that she identifies with all her characters.  The first voice you hear in the book is that of Percy, a 70-year-old, retired Harvard librarian.  I was initially turned off by his stodginess but won over by his sense of humor and wit. 

Throughout, Percy remains the most interesting.  As the story opens, he has a daily routine, grown daughters who live nearby, he's lived in the same house since he was a young man, and even his status as a widower is something he is well used to, having lost his wife over twenty years ago.  It could be that his 71st year proves to be the most eventful of his life. 

All the voices in this book are conveyed by reader Mark Bramhall, himself a Harvard graduate.  Though all male, the four narrative voices that tell this tale range in age from 70 down to 20 and in ethnicity from Eastern US to Antigua, Guatemala.  Each character's voice is fully developed by this talented reader.

--EM PWPL Reference Desk