A special thank you to all of our contributors and to the following people for their assistance in the production of Season’s Readings: Collection Development Librarian, Lisa Dendy Human Resources Analyst, Lakesia Farmer Technology Management Administrator, Jill Wagy North Regional Library Manager, Susan Wright
Season’s Readings is produced by Durham County Library’s Marketing and Development Division: Manager, Gina Rozier Graphic Designer, Hitoko Burke Adult Programming and Humanities Coordinator, Joanne Abel Webmaster, Matt Clobridge Development Officer, Alice Sharpe Grant Writer, Dionne Greenlee Publications Coordinator, Jennifer Scott
If you have questions or comments regarding this publication, please contact Hitoko Burke: (919) 560-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Season's Readings 2013 A collection of reviews written by members of the Durham County Library Family
T a b l e
C o n t e n t s
Friends of the Durham Library. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Fiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Mystery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Romance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Science Fiction & Fantasy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Nonfiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Biography.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Graphic Novels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Young Adult Fiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Juvenile Fiction.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Juvenile Nonfiction.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Easy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 DVDs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 CDs (Books and Music). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 Index of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 Friends Membership Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 2014 Book Sale Dates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Seasonâ€™s Readings is made possible by the Friends of the Durham Library, Inc.
Award Winning Publication American Library Association Best of Show for Bibliographies and Booklists North Carolina Library Association Best of Show for Bibliographies and Booklists
4 F r i ends o f th e Du r ha m L i b r ar y
Dear Library Friends, To mark this holiday season, the Friends of the Durham Library is happy to send you the latest Season’s Readings, your guide to good reading. Each year the library staff and volunteers in Durham’s libraries compose reviews about the books that have recently made an impression on them. Publication is supported by the Friends and community contributions. In this season of sharing, we hope you and your family will include the pleasures of reading and giving books in your celebrations. Annually, the Friends of the Durham Library uses funds raised from its book sales and memberships to support on-going library programs for all ages and special events fostering community interests. We are able to improve services, augment access to new technologies and add to collections. In addition, our scholarships for library staff allow them to finish certificate and degree programs in library science, languages and special skills that enhance the library’s ability to serve you, our community. In the past year, the Friends of the Durham Library supported these projects proposed by library staff: • A Night of Poetry with Richard Blanco, the presidential inaugural poet, in conjunction with Durham Library Foundation • First Library in Space (F.L.I.S.) Project, an unprecedented initiative to launch a capsule filled with library memorabilia into near space • Baby Corner creates a separate, special space for parents and infants to read and play with board books • Musical instruments for preschoolers to launch new library musical program • Durham Comics Project, which encourages literacy and challenges all ages to tap into their artistic ability by drawing a short comic • Saturday Creative Art Park, permitting children to create works of art with clay, paint and other materials
Fr i e n d s of t h e Du rh am L ibrary 5
The Friends recently announced the projects they will support for 2014. These include: • Photo-genic Initiative: places digital cameras in the hands of teens and young adults to improve literacy and technology skills by exploring the world of photography • Urban Fiction Book Kits: fosters a deeper appreciation for this popular genre while launching a new book club to promote dialogue around trending topics • Portable Puppet Stage and Audio Center: Expands children’s programming by offering early literacy programs through puppetry performances and skits • Summer Reading Club: the Library’s signature program that promotes continued reading and learning throughout the summer months Hold on to this booklet; it will help you with reading, sharing and giving wonderful books throughout the year. Best wishes for your holidays and the New Year,
Martha Scotford, President Friends of the Durham County Library Board THE FRIENDS SUPPORT YOUR LIBRARY Successful book sales and a growing Friends membership generate income that supports annual and short-term needs of the library, such as: • Critically needed video projector and DVD/VCR player for programmatic support • Chromebooks for Teen learning lab • Summer Reading Club: Immensely popular, club encourages library visitors of all ages to read over the summer months • Revamped shelving for library holds
6 F r i ends o f th e Du r ha m L i b r ar y
SIX GREAT REASONS TO JOIN THE FRIENDS 1. Help make the difference between a good library and a great library. 2. Support library programs and services for children, teens and adults. 3. Shop early at the book sales for the best selection, open to Friends members only. 4. Receive Best of Friends, the Friends’ newsletter. 5. Receive Season’s Readings, an annual booklet of staff reading recommendations. 6. Enjoy a 10% discount at several local bookstores; just show your membership card. Join the Friends of the Durham Library today. The membership application form is on page 118. FRIENDS BOARD SEEKS NOMINATIONS The Friends’ Board is always interested in talented individuals who would like to help them raise and spend money! Potential members of Friends of the Durham Library Board may obtain an application and instructions located on the library website at durhamcountylibrary.org/ friends_board.php. FRIENDS BOARD MEMBERS: • Attend monthly meetings on the second Thursday evening of each month • Assist with book sales • Actively participate on a Board committee • Perform other tasks to help the library and the Friends
Fr i e n d s of t h e Du rh am L ibrary 7
BOOK SALES You can find great bargains on gently used books at the Friends of the Durham Library book sales. Held in spring and fall, book sales at Main Library offer thousands of used books categorized for easy shopping, as well as audiobooks, CDs and DVDs. Paperbacks begin at 50 cents and hard covers at $1. Mini-book sales satisfy bargain-hunters year-round with a smaller selection of books, many in gift-giving condition. 2014 book sale dates and locations are listed on page 119. DONATING BOOKS FOR THE BOOK SALE The Friends of the Durham Library welcomes donations of gently used books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs, except for: encyclopedias, magazines, VHS tapes, cassettes and condensed books.You may take your donation to any Durham County Library location during regular hours. Please bring large donations (more than one bag) to the Main Library garage on Tuesday morning between 9 and noon, when the Friends of the Durham Library are present and can help unload. The garage is on the far right side, closest to Holloway Street, as you face the Main Library from the parking lot. If you must bring your large donation to the Main Library at a time other than Tuesday morning, please come first to the circulation desk and let them know you have a large donation. The security guard will open the garage doors so that you can unload your donation straight into the garage. If you have a question, or wish to make arrangements with the Friends for a special donation, please contact the Staff Liaison to the Friends, (919) 560-0190.
8 F i cti on
Fiction 32 Candles by Ernessa Carter
F CARTER, E.
Davidia Jones is 15, bullied at school and abused by her single, prostitute mother at home, when she decides to hit the road from Glass, Mississippi, in search of a better life. Picked up by a lesbian truck driver, “Mama Jane,” she is taken to a nightclub where she eventually ends up becoming a singing sensation. Her past is completely behind her, at least until her high school crush, rich and handsome James Farrell, walks in and is completely smitten with her. James doesn’t remember Davie, who was tortured by his cruel sister. Davie hopes for her “Sixteen Candles fairytale ending” while knowing all the time that the truth with eventually come out. – Lisa L. Dendy
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A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths
F GRIFFITHS, E.
Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist and college professor in Norfolk, England, is saddened when she finds out that Dan Golding, a close friend during her college years, has been killed in a house fire. The sadness turns to a more unsettling feeling when she receives a letter from him the very next day, asking her to come to the site of his latest dig. He was excited about a new find − ancient bones that may be those of King Arthur himself − but he was also afraid of something. Would she please come and give him a second opinion? When she gets a call from the head of the History department where Dan worked, asking her to look at the ancient bones Dan discovered, Ruth decides to go with her toddler Kate and good friend (and self-proclaimed Druid) Cathbad in tow, despite receiving text messages warning her to stay away. Once there, she finds that the bones Dan discovered have been switched, and a dangerous mystery ensues. Did someone from Dan’s department murder him? Was a sinister right-wing group called the White Hand involved? And how is it that DCI Harry Nelson, father of her child, is involved in a case that is not in his jurisdiction? This is the latest in an enjoyable series that began with Griffiths’ Crossing Places. – Lynne Barnette
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A House Divided by Kimberla Lawson Roby
F ROBY, K.
A House Divided is the latest book in the Rev. Curtis Black series. Curtis and Charlotte have had so many ups and downs in their marriage that I always wonder which straw will be the one to break the camel’s back. The latest drama in their relationship involves their son, Matthew, and his girlfriend, Racquel, who are about to become parents at the young age of 18. Matthew’s parents want him to focus on his college studies, but that is hard when you want to focus on your new family. Charlotte can accept her new grandbaby, but she is not so welcoming towards her new in-laws. Her constant feuding with Racquel’s mother, Vanessa, causes Racquel to go into early labor. Of course, everyone blames Charlotte, including her own husband and son. In the midst of everything, another crisis rocks the Black household. A mysterious figure from his past threatens to ruin Curtis and everything he has worked so hard to build. How do you fight an enemy that you can’t see? Curtis has done so much dirt over the years, and it seems to have finally caught up to him. Will Curtis and Charlotte be able to unite and fight or will they remain A House Divided? – Lakesia Farmer
The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by Bernard Shaw
F SHAW, B.
Journeying through the forest, she encounters various religious figures, each one seeking to convert her to their own brand of faith. – Willo Jackson
Baby of the Family by Tina McElroy Ansa
F ANSA, T.
The comic story of a girl’s coming of age in the South. She is believed to see ghosts and predict the future. Named a “Notable Book of the Year” by the New York Times. – Willo Jackson
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The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
F BROCKMEIER, K
This book drew me in with its tantalizing take on the dead. Many cultures stress the importance of remembering and honoring our dead; but, what happens when people are no longer around to remember those no longer living? Brockmeier switches between his unique tale of the City of the Dead and the story of Laura Byrd, a researcher trapped in the Antartic just as a deadly virus ravages the rest of the world. The two stories intertwine as the City finds itself shrinking and Laura sets out to find help. Some may find that the book doesn’t keep up with the skill and pace of its intriguing first chapters; however, it’s an enjoyable and provoking read. – Jennifer Scott
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
F DILLOWAY, M.
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is the first novel I read after last year’s Seasons Readings submittals. I loved it! This second novel of Margaret Dilloway (How to Be an American Housewife) features ill biology teacher Galilee (“Gal”) Garner’s changing take on life after her estranged sister’s teenage daughter Riley arrives on the scence. Although their beginning relationship is prickly and thorny, both of them begin to bloom as Gal spends hours daily cross-pollinating in her rose garden with the goal of winning “Queen of Show” for her new rose variation. Keep on reading to find out how Gal fares in her fight with kidney disease and who wins what prize. – Susan Wright
12 Fi cti o n
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
F ROWLING, J.
Please do not read this book thinking this will be like Harry Potter! This is absolutely nothing like my beloved childhood novels. At first, I absolutely hated this novel. I thought that there was entirely too much “adult” content. For a long time I thought J.K. was acting like a young female Disney star, trying to break out of the squeaky-clean image by cussing a lot and covering topics like drug use, sex, child abuse and rape. I was angry by the time I got to the middle of the book. I did not know what she was doing. There were several times I wanted to stop. But then I realized, this was an adult book. There was a reason why she was writing this. Rowling was on “benefits” herself for a time and she was writing a social commentary. This book is how our society views and treats those who are on welfare and receive various forms of government assistance. All of the characters are flawed, which was difficult for me to get used to. Normally, there is one character that has a redeeming quality, but those characters are few and far between in this novel. I think the one character who might have actually been “good” was Barry Fairbrother, and he is dead at the beginning of the novel. By the time I finished the book, I did not want the story to end. To quote the character Fats Wall, this story was “real and authentic.” I am so happy that she wrote this. This book is one that I will read over and over again. – Jessica Bingham
Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews
F ANDREWS, M.
Mary Kay Andrews’ books are like pecan pie − you know other things are better for you, but why deny yourself that sweet, Southern delight? Check your own troubles at the first page and enjoy these characters’ wacky adventures. Christmas Bliss revisits best friends BeBe Loudermilka and Weezie Foley. Weezie is in the midst of last-minute wedding preparations while her fiancé Daniel is in New York working as a guest chef for a sultry Italian restaurateur. BeBe is in her eighth month of pregnancy and as big as a house. As usual, BeBe and Weezie are there for each other as they deal with jealousy, bridal fittings, skeezy ex-husbands, aging parents and ships lost at sea. Grab yourself a glass of sweet tea and come along for the ride. – Lisa L. Dendy
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The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank
F FRANK, D.
This is one of the few books I’ve read completely and then decided I didn’t like it. The best assessment I can make of my opinion is that the heavy concentration of paranormal just didn’t grab me. On the other hand, I very much liked the recipes that were included at the end, the wonderful Charleston setting and the main character, the 93-year-old matriarch who wants the best for her dysfunctional family and makes frequent derisive comments about modern innovations as well as character assessments of her family. The matriarch did have a number of terrific quotable lines, so I’ve listed a few of my favorites: Page 3, paragraph 1 – “After all, as Charlestonians, we are the self-appointed guardians of all traditions worthy of preservation.” Page 24, paragraph 3 – “I had captained a rudderless ship, bound for the Land of Ennui.” Page 54, paragraph 6 – “Pearl exhaled for a long enough stretch to launch a cruise ship and send it straight to the docks in Hamilton, Bermuda.” Page 56, paragraph 8 – “‘Eah is a wonderfully versatile old Gullah word that means so many things. It could mean ‘you hear me?’ or ‘you come now or else!’ or ‘isn’t it true?’” – Joyce Sykes
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Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
F PITTS, L.
This is a sweeping novel set just after the Civil War. It follows the journey of a freedman, who escapes slavery, settles in Philadelphia and finds work in a library. He leaves his comfortable life to search for his wife, Tilda, who he left 15 years ago, but still deeply loves. The book is also the story of a wealthy abolitionist whose husband was killed in the war. She goes south with her best friend, a free-woman of color, to establish a school in Mississippi. The violence of the defeated South is brutal, as many refuse to acknowledge the defeat of the Confederacy and the end of slavery. However, the hope and resilience of the newly freed people as they navigate this new world is told in vivid detail. – Joanne Abel
Friends & Foes by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray
F Billingsley, R.
In Friends & Foes, Rachel and Jasmine are together again. The president of the American Baptist Coalition has been named, but the ladies are still trying to one-up each other. The ladies find themselves in Chicago. One of them has managed to book an appearance on Oprah, which is great, except that she is not the First Lady of the coalition; she shouldn’t be the one in the spotlight. Won’t she be surprised when her rival shows up at the show too? After a series of unfortunate incidents, neither appears on Oprah, and both find themselves in the midst of an investigation into the murder of the coalition’s beloved Rev. Griffin. Rachel saw his bloody body on the floor, so why wasn’t it there when she returned with Jasmine? Jasmine convinces Rachel to fly home to Houston and not tell anyone about Rev. Griffin. There’s not a body after all. Soon, speculation surrounds Rachel, and Jasmine thinks her nemesis will be out of her way once and for all. When Jasmine tries to enlist the help of Mae Frances for her plan, her friend surprises Jasmine by warning her to stay out of this situation; there are some dangerous people involved. Believing she knows best, Jasmine continues with her plans to let Rachel take the fall for a crime that they both know she did not commit. Convinced that they are working together to clear her name, Rachel sets out for Chicago with Jasmine in tow. Somewhere along the way, Jasmine has a change of heart, but is it too late? Pick up a copy to find out if the ladies will come out of this latest situation as friends or foes. – Lakesia Farmer
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The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore
F GILMORE, S.
This book takes place in 1974 in a small community in Tennessee. Emmalee is a 16-year-old girl who lost her mother and is living with an abusive father. She drops out of school and gets a job at a local shirt factory where she bonds with a co-worker named Leona. I really enjoyed this book and will try others by Susan Gilmore. – Roseanne Smith
Keeper of the Light by Diane Chamberlain
F CHAMBERLAIN, D.
During last year’s Durham Reads Together with Margaret Maron, Diane Chamberlain came along to the last event as one of Maron’s Weymouth writing buddies. I spent some time chatting with her and found we had much in common. We have lived in the same towns at different times in our lives and have similar stories. I just had to try one of her books. I started with Keeper of the Light, the first of a three-part series. Chamberlain weaves an excellent tale, and I was absorbed throughout all three of the books in the Kiss River series. Love, life, death, family….all things Chamberlain touches on in this wonderful women’s fiction. I have spent the rest of the year picking up different books written by her when I feel the need to get in touch with my romantic, female side, and she always delivers. – Jill Wagy
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Minaret by Leila Aboulela
F ABOULELA, L.
Minaret is one of the books Durham County Library got as part of the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf grant. I assigned it to my GenteXt Bookclub because it was one of the few books on the bookshelf that fit our reading requirements. It is a sleeper hit for me this year and a novel that got better the more I thought about it. Najwa was a university student in the Sudan when revolution hit. Because her father was a high-ranking offical in the old regime, Najwa, her mother and her brother are sent to London in exile, and she is no longer a part of the wealthy elite. She is orphaned and finds solace in rediscovering her religion. The book starts slowly, and Najwa really frustrated me in the beginning; however, I was soon immersed and found the book soothing to read. And, while I was often irritated by Najwaâ€™s simplicity, she is an honest character who knows her limitations. Not all heroines need be strong, smart, ambitious, etc., as not all people are that way. It was nice to read a book with a character who was just a person, rather than an extraordinary person. The thing I really liked about this book may take discussing with other readers to fully appreciate, but the more I talked and thought about the book, the more I found it subversive and challenging to a Western understanding of independence and freedom. â€“ Jennifer Lohmann
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My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
F OLIVEIRA, R.
Mary is determined to make her dream a reality, no matter what other people think. For generations the women in her family have served as midwives. Not Mary; she wants to be the first woman to change all that. She wants to be a surgeon. Even as a wealthy woman in Albany, NY, she cannot get a medical college to admit her. Then the Civil War comes, and the great need − along with her determination − allow her to finally study the field that she loves and longs to learn more about. I have not read a lot of historical fiction, but I enjoyed this book and learned more about the Civil War. – Roseanne Smith
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
F CHAMBERLAIN, D.
Jane Mackie has always wanted to help others. This was one of the reasons she became a social worker in the South about fifty years ago. Her job takes her to a tobacco farm where Ivy Hart takes care of a family consisting of sister Mary Ella, baby William and grandmother Nona − lots of responbility for a 15-year-old girl. Jane learns the background of the eugenics movement from other social workers, and cannot believe young girls like Ivy are being sterilized. Then Jane finds herself in the midst of a hard choice involving Ivy and her own marriage as well. She is told that becoming too emotionally involved with her clients is not a wise thing to do. This is a story of love, compassion and a willingness to stand up for ideals one believes in. A very good read by an author who has written more than 22 best-selling titles. – Donna Hausmann
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Never Say Never by Victoria Christopher Murray
F MURRAY, V.
Chauncey and Jamal grew up together and were best friends; they even work together as fire fighters. Their wives, Miriam and Emily, are friends as well. When Emily, one of the best child psychologists in the field, receives a phone call notifying her that there has been a devastatng fire at a nearby school, she knows she’ll be needed to counsel the students. Miriam is with Emily when she receives the call, and she has a gut feeling that something is wrong. She’s sure that something bad has happened to Emily’s husband Jamal, and she tries to figure out how to console her friend and help her deal with Jamal’s death. But Miriam is devastated to learn that it is her husband Chauncy – not Jamal – who was killed while rescuing students in the school fire. Miriam doesn’t know where to turn. How will she raise three children by herself? Chauncey was the love of her life. Fortunately for Miriam, Emily and Jamal are there to help her get through this. When Miriam can’t seem to function, Jamal steps in and helps her with the funeral arrangements and the children. Chauncey was his best friend; he has to be there for her, doesn’t he? In the meantime, Emily is spending a lot of time counseling grief-stricken families affected by the fire. There is one child who has lost a part of herself in the fire, and Emily is determined to save her. While she knows what she is doing at the school is important, Emily feels guilty that she is not there for her friend Miriam. Miriam would be there for her if the tables were turned. Emily finds comfort in knowing that Jamal is taking up her slack. Jamal is grieving, too. He and Miriam share memories of Chauncey that their other friends do not understand. The time that Jamal and Miriam spend together – grieving, sharing and reminiscing – brings the two closer in ways they never planned. Never Say Never because you just don’t know what you would do until you are actually placed in a situation. – Lakesia Farmer
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The Perfect Marriage by Kimberla Lawson Roby
F ROBY, K.
The Perfect Marriage tells the story of Denise and Derek Shaw, who have been married for 15 years. They have a daughter, successful careers and a fairy tale life in Chicago. The story takes us through their lives of addiction, which starts out with recreational drug usage and escalates to the point of them losing everything. This was a realistic portrayal of families living with addiction. We are shown that family is what matters, not material things. – Anita Robinson
The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate
F WINGATE, L.
This is the first book that I have read by Lisa Wingate. It was a very good read, capturing two lives from different periods and intertwining the past with the present. Both ladies experience loneliness and hurt. The concept of using letters to her father (God) and a prayer box really touched my heart. – Anita Hasty-Speed
The Queen of Palmara by Minrose Gwin
F GWIN, M.
This is simply the best novel I have read in a long while; the writing is amazing and story compelling. I don’t know how I missed it. This would be my “You Must Read This” novel of 2013. Set in 1963 in a small town in Mississippi, Gwin's story follows a young girl who lives with her mother, the town’s alcoholic “cake lady,” and her father, who sells insurance to African Americans. The mother, raised in a progressive − for the town − family, despises her husband’s afterhours activities with the KKK and often warns the black community when danger is afoot. The divisions of the community by class and race are portrayed in brilliant detail. All the characters are very real and none are stereotyped, black or white, male or female, young or old. Viewed through the eyes of a child, this pivotal time in our country’s history is made very real with its gut wrenching violence and white blindness. – Joanne Abel
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Sinners & Saints by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley
F MURRAY, V.
Sinners & Saints brings together two of my favorite authors, Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley, along with their characters Jasmine Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams. Both Jasmine and Rachel are pastor’s wives, but they are not your typical first ladies. These two women are willing to get what they want by any means necessary. Both have set their sights on becoming the First Lady of the American Baptist Coalition. Naturally, each woman believes her husband is the best man for the job, but winning the position may require the women to get down and dirty and revert to their old tricks. Just when each woman thinks she has finally clinched victory, the current First Lady of the coalition reminds them both that she is THE First Lady and a force to be reckoned with. You will have to pick up this book to see who wins the presidency and to see which lady is victorious. There is also a supporting cast of characters that will keep you on your toes. The husbands, Rev. Hosea Bush and Rev. Lester Adams, do their best to keep their wives grounded, but it is a hard job. Mae Frances is one of my favorite characters. Equipped with her bag of tricks and seemingly endless power and connections, Mae Frances always finds a way to get Jasmine out of a jam. Of course, if Rachel happens to get caught up in some drama along the way, so be it; she deserves it for messing with Jasmine. You’ll find yourself wondering what current Coalition President Rev. King and his wife Cecelia are up to and why Rev. Griffin is really so interested in who the next coalition president will be. – Lakesia Farmer
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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
F MILLER, M.
You probably have some idea of the story of Achilles − if nothing else, you know about his fatal heel. Which means the author, Madeline Miller, has set herself a very difficult task. She is writing a story that you think you know or, alternately, you think is boring because it’s taken from the very long and difficult poem, The Iliad. No matter your preconceptions, Miller will smash them and wow you. The story is told from the point of view of Patroclus, the young soldier whose death precipitates Achilles’ rage against Hector and eventually causes the Greek hero’s death. Achilles is everything a young Greek hero should be while Patroclus is not. It is in the contrast between these two lovers and friends that Miller finds magic. What is heroism? What makes a person great? What is fame and immortality, and is it worth the price? The characters of Patroclus and Achilles are wonderfully drawn, as are the secondary characters. Odysseus was my favorite character in the book − wily, sly, a little oily, but also with a deep sense of family and loyalty. All the Greek heroes are larger than life. The mythology part of the story (Achilles’ mother is a sea nymph) is presented as a matter-of-fact part of the history, so this read like historical fiction rather than fantasy even though the gods intervene in the story. The writing is spare, but lovely and grandiose in its frugality. Highly recommended. – Jennifer Lohmann
Step-Ball-Change by Jeanne Ray
F RAY, J.
I was browsing and came up with this book, my winner for worst-titled book I’ve read this year. Everything else about the book is appealing. Caroline, who owns her own dance studio, lives in Raleigh and has been happily married for forty years. She has four children, three lawyers and one still in law school. Due to a problem with her house’s foundation, she has a mild-mannered contractor who practically lives in her house. Then her daughter announces her engagement to a rich young man. Then Caroline’s sister Taffy, estranged from her husband, arrives with her spoiled dog in tow. Add in a few more romantic tangles and financial worries and stir. If the story alone isn’t enough to attract you to this book, how about this? Jeanne Ray’s daughter is Ann Patchett. – Lisa L. Dendy
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The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson
F Johnson, T.
This is a poignant and thought-provoking first novel by an author who doesn’t make it feel like a first novel. And he’s a New Yorker who writes very credibly about our part of North Carolina. This was a selection of the North Regional Fiction book club, and I was very skeptical about the subject matter: a number of characters whose common thread was a nursing home. I soon found that all of the primary characters and the interactions between them were fascinating. In particular, Lorraine, the African-American Licensed Practical Nurse, is so caring and competent that she almost seems to be a candidate for sainthood! The other characters are also extremely unique, believable and sympathetic. The whole effect is also enhanced by covering four generations of some of the principals. The structure of having each chapter told in first person from the view of a different character is extremely effective and part of what makes this novel so charming. – Joyce Sykes
These Is My Words: Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901: Arizona Territories by Nancy E. Turner
F TURNER, N.
This diary of a very strong woman portrays an extremely insightful representation of the challenges of settling in Arizona in the late 19th century. Sarah Prine and her family face numerous hazards, including Indian attacks, train robberies, diseases and accidents that paint a realistic picture of life in the West during this period. The historical fiction aspects include a number of lesser known figures and also the famous Geronimo. Captain Jack Elliott spends a great portion of his career chasing the Indian “villain.” The wonderful romance between Sarah and Jack Elliott, a career soldier, adds tremendously to the impact and the enjoyment of the story. The theme of Sarah’s continuing struggle for education for herself and for her children is definitely inspiring and includes Sarah’s finding of an abandoned wagon filled with books, of which she takes great advantage. The book has a tragic twist at the end that left me weeping profusely but, of course, still happy that I had read the book. – Joyce Sykes
Fic t ion 2 3
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
F DIAZ, J.
Short stories about love and the trials one must go through in order to understand what real love is.– Claudia Aleman de Toomes
Winter of the World by Ken Follett
F FOLLETT, K.
Book two of Follett’s Century Trilogy starts where book one left off, moving through history to World War II following the lives of American, Russian, German, Welsh and English families. As their stories build to the war, the lives of these families are entangled in surprising ways. Follett tells a good story with so many historical references I often feel I could take a test on the time period he writes about and pass with flying colors. This is a tome of over 900 pages, so find a comfortable spot and make the commitment to read through. The third novel, Edge of Eternity, will be published toward the end of next year so you have time to catch up. – Jill Wagy
24 M yste r y F i c ti o n
Mystery Fiction Crashed: A Junior Bender Mystery by Timothy Hallinan
F HALLINAN, T.
“Junior Bender” is my new favorite crook. A friend recommended this series to me, knowing how much I love Carl Hiaasen, and it does not disappoint. There are only three books in the series so far, and they are a whole lot of fun. The books are witty, sometimes laugh-out loud, hard to put down and just plain old good reads. Junior is the guy other crooks go to when things have gone awry. He is hired by a lady mob boss to make sure a former child star is on the set for an “adult film” that she hopes will lead her out of the criminal world into “legitimate” businesses. This is comedy-mystery storytelling at its best. – Jill Wagy
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
F LOCKE, A.
Caren Gray is the manager of Belle Vie, a former slave plantation in Louisiana where historical players reenact historical scenes for tourists. Caren’s mother was a cook for Belle Vie’s owners, the Clancy family, and her great-great-greatgrandfather was a slave on the plantation. When a migrant worker turns up dead on the property, Caren digs deeper for answers and uncovers some unpleasant truths about the plantation’s history. Very atmopheric with welldrawn characters, this mystery is richly layered and engaging. – Lisa L. Dendy
M y st e ry Fic t ion 2 5
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
F Harris, C.
The cover gives the bad news: “The Final Sookie Stackhouse Novel.” This series is one of my favorite “guilty pleasures,” and I am sad that it is ending. Beginning with Dead Until Dark, this series mixes the supernatural, humor and a realistic (believe it or not) portrait of Southern culture. The characters are wonderful. Sookie is a reluctant telepath and a waitress who uses her library and a vocabulary calendar to educate herself. Even with her telepathic skills, she is very much a typical Southern woman of a certain age. It is her choice of lovers that is unique. They include shape shifters, vampires, werewolves and, my favorite, a weretiger! What do I think of the TV show, “True Blood,” which is very loosely based on the series? Well, it is a bit bloody for me, and, as usually, I think the books are so much better. – Joanne Abel
Garments of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King
F King, L.
A wonderful Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes tale set in Morocco in the 1920s. A great look at the culture and the time from several view points. It is also a story of loyalty and faith. – Joanne Abel
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
F FLYNN, G.
This is one of the most disturbing books that I’ve read in some time...and I couldn’t put it down! The examination of several key questions form the plot of this fast-paced, psychological thriller. How well do you know your partner/spouse? What is that thin line between love and hate? To what extent would your partner/spouse go to prove either? “Brinkmanship” takes on new meaning with this truly “scary” offering. – Alice Sharpe
26 M yste r y F i c ti o n
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
F SEARLES, J.
A perfect read for a dark, scary Halloween night, or for that matter, anytime one wants to journey into the paranormal. Introduce the Masons, who technically are ghost hunters, traveling around giving lectures and assisting people haunted by otherworldly spirits. One night, they are called to the old stone church and are later found cruelly murdered. Their young daughter, Sylvia, is a witness to the murder, but can only remember a dark shadow running away from the crime. She is put in the custody of her sister, Rose, who has always acted bizarre. Through interviews with the police, Sylvia is determined to piece together the details of that fateful night and find out who murdered her parents. Between strange and horrific events happening in the basement and noises being heard in the house, this book will keep you guessing until the very end what happened that fateful night. Warning: Try not to read this book alone! â€“ Donna Hausmann
Uncommon Clay by Margaret Maron
F MARON, M.
After the Durham Reads Together series featuring Margaret Maron, I appreciate her books even more. One of the aspects of her books that she discussed was setting lots of her Deborah Knott novels in different, interesting parts of North Carolina. This one is set in the pottery rich area in and around Randolph County. As she explained when she was here, she immersed herself in learning how potters work with clay so she could incorporate aspects of that in her book. This novel brings back characters from prior books in the series, adds new characters who have relationships to earlier characters and, of course, has lots of twists and turns before the crimes are finally solved. Great reading! â€“ Joyce Sykes
Rom an c e 2 7
Romance Can’t Hurry Love by Molly O’Keefe
ROMANCE F O’KEEFE, M.
Author Molly O’Keefe has not given herself an easy task in Can’t Hurry Love. If you’ve read the first in the Crooked Creek series (Can’t Buy Me Love), you are primed to hate Victoria, the heroine of Can’t Hurry Love. Even if you’ve not read the previous book, Victoria is a tough heroine to love. She’s the penniless widow of a man who bilked all of his friends in a Ponzi scheme and is struggling with the self-hatred and guilt foisted upon her by her past. Eli, the hero, isn’t much easier to love. Abandoned by his mother, Eli has had hatred for Victoria’s family forced upon him from birth, and he is angry about it. He’s angry about life. It’s a credit to O’Keefe’s writing skill that the reader is willing to stick with these characters as they learn to forgive themselves and others. Eli has to give up his anger; Victoria has to develop some. The two characters grow in tandem, each one’s growth pushing the other to be better, to be more. To me, this interplay between the characters as they spur their loved one to be a better person is at the heart of a wonderful romance. – Jennifer Lohmann
28 Ro man c e
Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra
ROMANCE F KANTRA, V.
This was a lovely book and I nearly swallowed it in one gulp. North Carolina readers will appreciate how well this local author captured her Outer Banks setting. Kantra also has a warm sense of family, which will immediately spur you to read the other books in the series. This is small town romance at its best. – Jennifer Lohmann
The Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson
ROMANCE F SORENSON, J.
I don’t read much romantic suspense. I enjoy them, but the author must juggle both the developing romance and the advancing suspense plot, without letting either lag. If it sounds hard to write, I’m sure it is (I’ve never tried it). Jill Sorenson’s The Edge of Night succeeds on all accounts. Gang Unit Officer Noah Young is assigned to the case of a murdered cocktail waitress. April Ortiz, the victim’s coworker, might have information to help solve the case. Noah finds her incredibly attractive, but she’s a single mother and wary of men. I don’t want to give away too much, but the mystery plot, Noah and April’s growing romance, and their lives outside intermingle (a secondary romance!) until it seems impossible for Sorenson to make it all work out by the end. Don’t worry, she does. The way the romance and suspense plots blend together is wonderful, but what really makes this book shine is the characterization. Sorenson’s setting is gritty, and her characters match it. They are really people with complex motivations that make you frustrated when they do something stupid, even if you understand why they did it. To say that the book is messy is inaccurate; Sorenson keeps a tight rein on the book’s intricate plot, but her characters are messy because they feel like real people, and real people have messy emotions. Good, bad, right and wrong were all complicated by the realistic characters populating Sorenson’s novel, and I couldn’t put it down. – Jennifer Lohmann
Rom an c e 2 9
Exposed by Naomi Chase
ROMANCE F CHASE, N.
Account Executive Tamia Luke is well on her way to obtaining a major promotion and a promising future with her very prominent beau, Brandon Chambers, a well-known Houston lawyer and son of Texas’s Lieutenant Governor. All of this changes when her client Dominic Archer strong arms her into becoming his mistress. Dominic threatens to divulge Tamia’s scandalous past, leaving her no choice but to surrender to his demands. The tables turn when her hatred towards Dominic is replaced with quenchless lust. As her desire for Dominic grows, the closer she comes to losing everything, including her life. – Derrian Jones
30 Sci e nc e F i c ti o n & F a n t a s y
Science Fiction & Fantasy Enderâ€™s Game by Orson Scott Card
SCIENCE F CARD, O.
Hands down, the best sci-fi novel of all time. I am not a huge science fiction reader and only read this book because I felt obligated, as a book-loving librarian, to read at least one book from each genre. I am so glad that I did. I love this book! Even if you hate sci-fi, you should give this book a chance. It follows the life of Ender, a young child, who is sent to battle school to train as an officer for the army. As Ender struggles to fit in and to do the right thing, his plight resonates with the same internal dilemmas we all experience. This is a book with an ending that you will not soon forget. â€“ Amber Huston
S c i e n c e Fic t ion & Fan t asy 3 1
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
FANTASY F GROSSMAN, L.
For adults who loved the Harry Potter books, but found the characters’ heroic qualities a bit unbelievable, there’s Brakebill’s College for Magicians. Young Quentin Coldwater is the kind of boy who has always been waiting for something amazing to happen to him, so he’s not as surprised as he should be when he’s admitted to Brakebill’s. However, Brakebill’s is less of a wonderland and more of a boiler room. The magic they teach is real, the workload is backbreaking, the ridiculous hand gestures painful and monotonous. It’s a place that trains young people for alcoholism as much as it does magicianhood, and then sets them loose with near infinite power in a world they’ve had little experience in. This is a dark parody, but an enjoyable and fully realized one. Read it not expecting great things from its characters, and you’ll love it all the more when they surprise you. The magicians in question are not heroes, but they are people; people can grow. – Matthew Z. Wood
32 Sci e nc e F i c ti o n & F a n t a s y
Nexus by Ramex Naam
SCIENCE F NAAM, R.
What if there was a drug that could connect humans mind to mind? How would it be used? You can imagine that people would use it to collaborate with each other in new ways to advance science, expand creativity or connect with loved ones. Of course, you can also imagine many ways in which the drug could be abused. Does the good outweigh the bad? What would be the political and ethical ramifications of such a drug? Nexus, by Ramex Naam, explores these topics when grad student Kade Lane enhances a drug, called Nexus, into a more powerful version of the original. A division of U.S. Homeland Security blackmails Lane to help them get close to a Chinese scientist suspected of being the mastermind of a mind-control program. But is this scientist using Nexus for noble purposes? Lane has to decide which side he’s on while evading people on both sides who want his version of Nexus for their own purposes. The action in Naam’s novel takes place both in the real world and in the characters’ minds as they interact with Nexus and each other. Naam does an excellent job of keeping the reader turning the page as the story moves from the U.S., to China, to Thailand, all while asking, but not answering, the questions of the moral implications of Nexus. The reader can see the good and bad in both sides. A sequel to Nexus, titled Crux, was released this summer and continues the story. As I write this, I’m half way through with Crux, and it’s even better than Nexus. – Matthew Clobridge
Non f ic t ion 3 3
Nonfiction All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens
Whenever I discover a new cookbook that I like, I tend to get totally hooked, and my family eats really well for a few weeks. It has been a few months for this one. Molly Stevens explains that there is a lot more to roasting than putting a hunk of raw meat and vegetables into a blazing oven. Many important roasting processes are explained, including proper temperatures for different cuts of meat, the importance of presalting and even how to choose the right size pan. I thought I made a pretty good roast chicken, but the roasted chicken with lemony garlic-parsley pan sauce was truly fantastic. – Janet Levy
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
This lovely read follows author Barbara Kingsolver and her family as they decide to leave civilization in Tuscon, Arizona to move to a family farm in rural Virginia. Their mission is to spend the next year eating home-grown or locally-procured food. The novel follows the family as they grow their own vegetables, raise their own poultry and search out the rest of their food from farmer’s markets and other sources. It delves far deeper than a simple discussion of food, arguing that there are economic, social and health benefits of focusing on local foods. Kingsolver’s narrative is enhanced by contributions from husband Steven Hopp and daughter Camille. This was one of my first introductions to the “locavore” movement and made me truly stop and think about my meals. – Jennifer Scott
34 No nfi c ti o n
Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks by Michael Lanza
This small book is a gem of travel writing. Lanza, an editor of Backpacker Magazine, travels with his wife and young children (ages 7 and 9) to some of American’s most iconic national parks that will be most affected by climate change. Some of my favorites parks – including Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Olympic – are visited, as well as some I have on my bucket list. Travel with this family as they paddle, hike, fish, camp and have typical family dynamics on their journeys. The adults want to give their children the experiences of these wonderful places that may not be there when they are adults. By reading this book, I shared their adventures and their sense of wonder. – Joanne Abel
Non f ic t ion 3 5
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander
I picked up this book having had two preconceptions. The first is that I had read Alexander’s book, The War that Killed Achilles, and knew her to be a good writer. The second is that I was certain, like many people, that Captain William Bligh had been an uncommonly cruel captain, and the mutiny had been justified. I recommend this book because I was right about the first preconception and completely wrong about the second. On April 28th, 1789, while in the South Pacific collecting breadfruit, Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian overthrew his captain, Lieutenant William Bligh. When the mutiny was over, Bligh and 18 loyalists were in an open launch in the middle of the Pacific. Thus began Bligh’s nearly four-thousand-mile journey to Timor (taking over six weeks) and the hunt for the mutineers. The story of the mutiny on the Bounty is a Rashomon tale, with the many different recollections of the events told years after the mutiny, with each sounding plausible. Alexander deftly handles the conflicting versions of events, reminding the reader what Bligh wrote in his log and how the seamen’s stories changed with each telling to provide as accurate an understanding of the events as possible. The adventure tale and courtroom dramas that follow are riveting – proof that truth really is stranger than fiction. I had listened to this book on audio and enjoyed it, but I think the charts and illustrations in the book would have added a lot to my understanding. – Jennifer Lohmann
36 No nfi c ti o n
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson
The title says it all! Author Mark Batterson effectively reminds the reader about the power of prayer. The book begins with the legend of Honi who lives the life of a circle maker. The legend of Honi captures the essence of praying bold prayers and standing firm until prayers are answered. The author takes us on a journey of how his prayers have been answered. The answers haven’t always been at his desired time but were always “right on time.” He also shares examples of others who have taken the time for bold prayers and shares their results and lessons learned. It’s a book that strengthens your faith and encourages you to pray circles around your biggest dreams and greatest fears. – Tammy Baggett
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010 by Lucille Clifton, edited by Kevin Younger and Michael S. Glaser
I do not read a lot of poetry. One of the speakers at a program introduced her talk with a poem that I really liked, so I thought I would take a look at Lucille Clifton. I am glad I did. Toni Morrison writes in the forward, “It is no wonder that her devoted fans speak often of how inspiring her poetry is—life changing in some instances.” Each of the short poems is a gem to savor. I wonder how I could have missed knowing about this poet. – Joanne Abel
Non f ic t ion 3 7
Computers for Seniors in Easy Steps: For the Over 50s by Sue Price
Don’t let this title fool you – it is not just for seniors! In the 5th edition of this title, Price covers Windows 8 and Office 2013. Windows 8 has brought big changes to those who have been using Windows for years. This new operating system can be confusing, frustrating and downright difficult, but Price has some excellent tips and shows them to you with lots of screen prints. I picked this book up in hopes of finding some tips for my 83-year-old mother who just got her first Windows computer. It has helped me help her in learning this new system. Many people I’ve talked to over the past year who have gotten a new computer with Windows 8 have had trouble navigating around and finding the familiarity of the old Windows. This book will help. If you plan on getting a new Windows computer, pick this book up first and at least page through it to familiarize yourself with the big changes Windows 8 has brought to the user. – Jill Wagy
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
I admit it – I am a big Michael Pollan fan ever since I read his Botany of Desire. This time, he takes a look at cooking and has a great time with it. He divides up the acts of cooking into four parts that correspond to the four traditional elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Much of the Fire section is based in Eastern North Carolina as Pollan goes there to learn about cooking with fire (think wholehog barbeque). Water has him apprenticing himself to a wonderful cook and learning to chop and cook onions making stews. He also discusses the different tastes that influence our foods. Umami has been recognized in Japan for over a century, where in the West, the fifth taste (joining sweet, sour, salt, bitter) was only identified in 2001. The chapter on Air involves bread making, and it too will surprise you. The last chapter is called Earth and focuses on fermentation and the emerging fermentation underground that promotes “live” food. You will learn much about friendly bacteria and how we co-evolved together. The book ends with recipes for each of the sections. This was a fun romp through different cooking methods, and I enjoyed meeting the varied cooks Pollan worked with along the way. – Joanne Abel
38 No nfi c ti o n
Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods by Christine Byl
This is a memoir of sorts, the story of a young woman who joins the trail crew in Glacier National Park and becomes hooked on “dirt work.” I was drawn to this book because it was set in part in Glacier, but kept reading because of the writing style and unique story. It is an apologist to hard manual labor − seeing it as valued as well as necessary to our lives today as it was 100 years ago. Byl discusses why she loves manual labor and the assumptions many people have about those who do it. The book is a meditation of what wilderness is and is not: “Wild is giddy and weeping, kicked up heels, and also a monastic pacing, back and forth, temp unvaried, destination in. There is wild in storm, in the eye of the storm, and also, in the steady beat of rain.” (pg. 132) Byl also works in Cordova on the coast of Alaska and settles in near Denali with her husband, who is also a traildog. She talks openly about being one of a few women in this line of work and of the joys of mentoring younger women. A word of warning: the traildogs are known for their creative use of expletives. They are many examples in the book. – Joanne Abel
Non f ic t ion 3 9
Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
Words cannot fully express my love for this cookbook. I lived in Shanghai for a year and miss so much about the city, but nothing more than the food. This book was a godsend for my cooking. Some caveats: 1) This is mostly Sichuanese and Hunanese cooking, different from what I was eating in Shanghai; 2) You will have to go to one of the Asian markets to get some of the ingredients (I can often be found at Li Ming); and 3) Don’t expect this to be like what you eat in a restaurant because this is much simplier home cooking. I now cook dishes from this cookbook about two to three times per week − the recipes are delicious, simply and healthy. Generally the recipes have four or five ingredients and, because they are stirfries, take five minutes to cook. Dunlop gives some instructions on serving, but count on one dish per person, plus rice and an extra dish if you have big eaters. Some of my favorites are stir-fried eggs and tomatoes, pressed tofu and peppers and a refreshing salad with rehydrated wood ear mushrooms. Don’t worry, meat eaters, there are dishes for you too, though vegetables and tofu play a starring role in this book. And, since the Chinese don’t eat cheese that way Westerners do, most of the vegetarian dishes are also vegan. If you use tamari soy sauce, the dishes are easily made gluten-free. So, go to Li Ming (or your favorite Asian grocery store – there’s also a great one in Cary), buy yourself a cheap wok and some chopsticks and get cooking! – Jennifer Lohmann
40 No nfi c ti o n
The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz
In a happy accident, this nonfiction book found its way onto the fiction display outside my office – otherwise, I might have missed a fascinating exploration of the human psyche. Psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz distills 25 years of practice into about 30 stories of real-life patients – stories that illuminate truths about each of us. From the first chapter about a difficult patient who fakes his own death to escape the work of building a relationship with his therapist, to one of the final chapters about a couple made miserable by their own failure to find the regularly touted but often illusory “closure” after the loss of their child, The Examined Life helps us see ourselves in the trials of others. There is a hint of voyeurism in stealing glimpses of Grosz’s patients. But even though I read in fascination as myriad examples of the human condition played out across the pages, the more powerful impulse was selfexamination. I found myself wondering which of the stories were secretly mine. Was I like the patient willing to deny the truth in a doomed attempt at preserving a “perfect” life? Or did I have more in common with the patient who conjured up worst case scenarios in a subconscious effort aimed at avoiding irrelevance? To various degrees, and perhaps because Grosz does such a good job of explaining the wider applications, many of these stories resonated. I will definitely reread this book, in part or in full, when faced with difficult circumstances. The stories are instructive and multi-layered, and I sense that their interpretation will evolve as the reader does. Grosz has provided an enduring road map for each of us interested in examining our own lives. – Gina Rozier
Non f ic t ion 4 1
The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South by Bruce Levine
This is a different look at the South during the American Civil War. It looks at the social conditions in the South as the war progresses, focusing of the changing roll of African Americans. This role was changed by the 200,000 African American men who served in the Union army as well as those enslaved men and women behind the lines who worked as spies and those who were “work resisters.” The author shows the delusional way slaveholders viewed the enslaved people they controlled from things they said in their private letters to one another. Also, letters and journals are used to show how the terrible conditions of the enslaved people moved the Northern troops in the South to fight for abolition as well as the Union. – Joanne Abel
Five Good Minutes: 100 Morning Practices to Help You Stay Calm & Focused All Day Long by Jeffrey Brantley, MD
Being too busy, too tired or a combination of both may threaten to send one’s inner spirit into a downward spiral that could prove, from time to time, difficult to escape. There are solutions. Yet, busy folks often need simple strategies to find a calm center amid such daily turmoil – whether it be within one’s personal, professional or academic life. Dr. Jeffrey Brantley, founder and director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at Duke Integration Medicine, offers just that: simple solutions for busy people to address stress in Five Good Minutes. Brantley “prescribes” 100 exercises that take no more than five minutes each to enjoy. Whether it’s the recommendations to throw oneself into a host of meditative practices, to sing loudly, to cultivate gratitude or put oneself first for a change, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to take “five good minutes” to regain control of an unruly day while becoming wholeheartedly present during each moment of practice. – Dionne R. Greenlee
42 No nfi c ti o n
The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food − Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal, Regional, and Traditional − From the Lost WPA Files Edited by Mark Kurlansky
The tile really explaines this book. Read what people were eating in the different regions of the country in their own words. North Carolina’s entry included two “Chitterling Strut” stories and “Recipes from Prominent North Carolinians.” This is a fun book and a very different look at our historic food culture. – Joanne Abel
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
As we grow older, we definitely regain wisdom through our own experiences. I never thought I would need a book like this until recently, since I thought I was smart enough, experienced enough, and I knew all the techniques for the howto-live-better-life kind of stuff, and no one would need to tell me anything. But that was not the case. I was actually feeling stuck in life, and reading The Secret made me feel even worse. I got really confused. So I was looking for something to release myself from the how-to-be-positive things that were suggested in The Secret. It was totally a coincidence that I read a blog that was written by someone I knew. She was posting her book review. The book title was The Four Agreements. It was a good review, and I was mesmerized. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements leads you to the path of personal freedom. The book is very easy to read, and even though I am not religious, what the author is saying in the book makes sense. The Four Agreements are: Be impeccable with your word Don’t take anything personally Don’t make assumptions Always do you best This is exactly what I needed. This book reminds you that life is simple. I was glad to know that. After reading this book, I felt much better. – Hitoko Burke
Non f ic t ion 4 3
From 3 to 26.2: How I Completed My First Marathon by Stephanie Turner
This is a great book for those who are new to running and want to run their first marathon. I am currently training for my first half marathon, and I feel like this book helped me a great deal. She provided numerous nutrition tips and tables displaying her training schedule. Stephanie writes in a way that is easy to understand and follow. She has plenty of advice for those who are trying to train and still lead a busy life. Stephanie Turner is also a Durham County employee, so we need to support her writing. – Jessica Bingham
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson
This book of essays by the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test is quirky, strange and surprising. You will learn about all kinds of people that you have never read about before. Ronson is genuine in his interest in these people and it shows. He is respectful while taking us into the this world of oddities. My favorite story is all about the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s boxes, which is also a documentary Ronson directed in 2008. Being a librarian and an archivist, I loved reading about how Kubrick had photographers go out and take pictures of doorways so he could find the right one that would appear in one of his movies for just moments. Eccentric characters populate this book. Some you will love, some you will hate, others you will just shake your head in wonderment. – Jill Wagy
44 No nfi c ti o n
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Journalist, author and book reviewer Nicholas Basbanes first introduced the little understood world of book collectors and their obsessive love of books to the general public with his multiple edition A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books. Allison Bartlet attempts a similar feat to chronicle, albeit analyze the psychological state of mind of a supposed bibliomane-turned-thief. The primary character in Bartlett’s book, John Gilkey, steals an estimated $100,000 worth of books between 1999 and 2003, using pilfered credit card numbers from his job as a clothing store clerk. Gilkey’s biblio-theft story-line as antagonist is used as a foil to the book’s protagonist Steven Sanders. Sanders, a Salt Lake City, Utah rare books dealer, becomes acquainted with Gilkey as a result of the former’s role as the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America’s security chairman. Bartlett’s brisk tome attempts to pit Gilkey and Sanders against one another in a type of good and evil, high stakes ‘whodunnit’ crime mystery. However, instead of being an erudite connoisseur of books type of criminal, the reader quickly learns Gilkey is nothing more than an obsessive kleptomaniac who has turned to snagging books because they are easy marks. Even the genial and knowledgeable Sanders does not come off as the crime solving super book dealer Bartlett tries desperately to portray him as. Sanders’ tracking of the elusive Gilkey usually takes him no further than a computer in his Utah bookshop or a quick telephone call. Bartlett even manages to insert herself into the storyline as a journalist/psychologist who takes to meeting with the irascible Gilkey to talk about his early upbringing. Other than these minor nuances, true book lovers will enjoy the historical vignettes concerning documented cases of compulsive book lovers throughout time, plus the cat and mouse engagement the author employs. – Carter B. Cue
Non f ic t ion 4 5
Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves by Henry Wiencek
I have to admit, of the founders, Jefferson was always my favorite: writer, architect, founder of UVA, scientist, foodie and, most of all, a gardener. While all those things are true, the myth of him being a conflicted and benevolent slave owner is not, according to Wiencek. Early in his career, Jefferson did seem to believe that slavery would or should be abolished, but as he grew older, he came to see how completely his lifestyle and wealth depended on that evil system. He always tried to maintain the façade of compassionate “master,” but the reality was very different for all but his own blood kin. While he didn’t use the whip himself, his overseers did with his knowledge and approval. His use of children as young as eight in his nail factory is chilling. A friend of his left him money in his will to enable Jefferson to free his enslaved people, but he didn’t! In addition, unlike George Washington who freed the people he had enslaved on his death in his will, Jefferson did not. A disturbing yet fascinating look at our third president. – Joanne Abel
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is a hilarous comedian and writer of original personal sardonic humor. This book chronicles his funny attempt to learn french and other stories. Readers are advised that this book contains strong language. – Willo Jackson
My Story, My Song: Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith by Lucimarian Roberts
A must read. I have always admired Robin Roberts. She is true role model for our young women. I know now where she gets her drive and determination from, her mother. Ms. Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts has lived a life that so many of us can only dream about. Her faith in God and love for those that were not always loveable is truly an inspiration. – Anita Hasty-Speed
46 No nfi c ti o n
The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (in Real Life) by Chris Hardwick
You might know Chris Hardwick from Nerdist.com (if you’re a nerd). Or, you might know him as the host of AMC’s metafictional shows “Talking Bad” and “Talking Dead.” Or, you might not know him at all. But if you’re a nerd, or if you have a nerdy sense of humor, you should know Chris Hardwick. The Nerdist Way is an odd book: part self-help, part biography, part humor. Hardwick talks about overcoming his own demons and learning to make the most of his nerdy attributes, such as the ability to focus on one distinct goal (such as making it to the next level of a video game) to the exclusion of all else. On the down side, Chris tends to ramble while dispensing advice. On the up side, he’s completely hilarious to anyone who grew up a nerd. This book may not change your life, but I guarantee it will make you laugh. – Lisa L. Dendy
Non f ic t ion 4 7
Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet
In our technologically-driven, Kindle- and iPad- obsessed world, it is altogether possible to completely miss or not recognize the meditative and solitudinous experience that comes with browsing bookshelves in serious personal libraries, well-stocked bookstores or institutional libraries. Of course, a serious personal library in Bonnet’s parlance is one that houses a minimum of 20,000 titles, a sum that excludes the majority of people – even those that have a great proclivity for reading. The philosophical demeanor of both book and author are quite apparent early on as the table of contents lists chapter titles such as ”The World with Reach,“ ”The Practice of Reading,“ ”Tens of Thousands of Books, Bibliomania and Organizing the Bookshelves.“ Many published paens to the joys of books, reading and book collecting often lump the bibliophile and the extensive reader into one size fits all category. However, Bonnet makes a clear distinction: the bibliophile is an obsessive collector hunting for rare and beautiful objects, while the compulsive reader does exactly that and keeps all the books he/she reads. Bonnet disavows any pretense of being a bibliophile, although he has a vast personal library of 40,000 books, prefering to just be a “reader.” Regardless of the category, the indulgent reader of Phantoms on the Bookshelves will be sufficiently pleased they took the time to read this book – on their way to becoming a true bibliophilic aesthete. – Carter B. Cue
48 Nonfi cti o n
Plan D: How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes (even if you don’t have it) by Sherri Shepherd
I have read a lot of books on diabetes. Sherri Shepherd really did her research, especially after she accepted the fact that she was pre-diabetic. Sherri presents an easy-to-follow program for losing weight, managing sugar sensitivity and getting moving, which will help you feel good and look your best. With the help of her doctor she created this program, lost more than 40 pounds, looks great and has more energy than she did when she was in her twenties. Sherri made up her mind that she wouldn’t pass away with the same disease her mother passed away with and that her son wouldn’t be left alone. With the tools to help you live a long and healthy life, Plan D is a smart and supportive plan designed to help you lose weight safely and control your sugar sensitivity.The exercises are fun, and Sherri is a trusted friend offering advice and encouragement. I recommend this book to anyone who is prediabetic or who is diabetic. It has really helped me. – Michelle Hall
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
This book is fascinating. Did you know there are sugar sensors spread throughout the digestive system, not just on your tongue? Did you know there is a sugar “bliss point,” where more is not better? Fat, however has no such point; our bodies want more and more. Did you know that in 1980, when the U.S. obesity rate started to surge, soft drink manufacturers changed from table sugar to high-fructose corn syrup? Salt crystals are manufactured in hundreds of different ways to hit the tongue faster for different producers. And salt, sugar and fat all work together to make the food more addictive than they are alone. Processed food manufacturers are studying our brains so they can get us to eat more of their stuff. This book will change the way you look at food products in the grocery store. – Joanne Abel
Non f ic t ion 4 9
The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray
Ray (Ecology of a Cracker Childhood) is one of the best nature writers around. She is lyrical in her storytelling and passionate in her beliefs. This is the story of her journey to Red Earth Farm and her commitment to seed saving. She makes a strong case that we all are at the mercy of the big chemical companies who are trying to patent the genetic code of most of our food crops. She believes seed savers like herself are saving the world one seed at a time. Growing from seeds adapted to the area sounds like a great plan. (Watch for something happing at DCL with local seeds!) – Joanne Abel
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
The title Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books is a dead give-away about the breadth and scope of Paul Collins’s slim, but intriguing volume. Essentially a literary travelogue, the reader follows the footsteps of Collins, his visual artist wife, Jennifer and their son during a yearlong quest to reconnect with Collins’s maternal ancestral homeland of England, beginning in San Francisco and ending in Hay-on-Wye, a small village in Wales. Hay-on-Wye is notable because this small Welsh village at the center of Collins’s story is home to 40 antiquarian bookstores and a small residential populace, making it the book capital of the world. Although the reader is at times given a ringside and very personal view of the spousal relationship between Collins and his wife, plus the emotional tempest that their young son has autism, the most insightful perspective involves the rapport between Collins and the self-described “King of Hay,” legendary book dealer and storeowner Richard Booth. The mercurial and zany Booth, who has a penchant for issuing passports (to Hay-on-Wye, of course), gives Collins a job as his bookstore’s expert on American literature. Within their interaction the reader learns about the history of Hay-on-Wye, its literary legacy and influences, plus some of the personal nuances of Hay-on-Wye’s residents, like the town realtor keen on selling Collins and family a house. A quick read, this riveting little book reminds readers why they glory in reading and the power of reading to stir the human soul. – Carter B. Cue
50 No nfi c ti o n
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer
Writing in the clear, tidy style of the newspaper journalist he once was − before absconding to Paris, France and the transparent society within the cramped confines of long-running Shakespeare & Co., author Jeremy Mercer provides the reader with a bird’s eye view of the iconic shop’s history and its mercurial owner George Whitman. Whitman’s store, which opened in 1951, is not the first Shakespeare & Company. That distinction, which Mercer mentions in this book, belongs to the American bookseller Sylvia Beach, who closed her shop in 1941 during the World War II Nazi occupation of Paris. Mercer’s narrative memoir begins in Canada with the author abruptly leaving the country due to substance abuse issues and subsequently raising the ire of certain criminal elements. Like many writers and artists before him, the young Mercer soujourns to “Gay Paree” and with dwindling resources lands an unpaid job in Whitman’s self described “socialist utopia.” Mercer later becomes a close confidant to Whitman and finds himself mediating for Whitman with and between the strange cast of characters often employed at the bookstore. The book also has many humorous moments, such as how the routinely hungry Shakespeare & Co. staff forage for their daily allottment of food by creative hustling. Mercer also delves into the complex relationship between Whitman, his daughter, Sylvia, the numerous paramours that seek out the elderly Whitman, the free labor that mans the store and the store’s precarious existence. An entertaining book, the reader will find themselves laughing uproariously while simultaneously appreciating why bookstores like Whitman’s are a necessary part of human life and literary fulfillment. – Carter B. Cue
Non f ic t ion 5 1
Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African American Cuisine by Bryant Terry
I’m definitely not vegan, but this is a cookbook that I have grown to love and use often. While the title indicates vegan food, I assure you this book offers recipes that appeal to all. There is great focus on healthy food preparation with some all time favorites like collard greens. The recipes are simple and require minimal preparation time. The citrus collards with raisins redux are my favorite and ready to eat in no time. For this recipe, I either leave out the raisins or substitute with cherries. I admit making minor changes to the recipes is something I do often, but the result is never short on flavor. – Tammy Baggett
The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires: Featuring the Seven Laws of Wealth by Dennis Kimbro with the Napolean Hill Foundation
This book is proof that you should not judge a book by its cover. My first glance at the cover and title caused me to assume that this was just another book showing off the “bling-bling” of celebrities. It was the complete opposite. It was full of knowledge, wisdom and life principles, and it was very inspirational. Anything is achievable; it simply requires hard work and commitment, a belief in a higher being and knowing and practicing the art of giving. There are certain principles in life that propel us to another level, and they are all described in this book. Mr. Kimbro will leave you feeling as if you can reach your financial goals no matter how high you set your limit. – Myrtle Darden
52 No nfi c ti o n
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee
From the first paragraph to the book’s last paragraph, it is evident that college professor and ardent reader Lewis Buzbee is a passionate and totally consumed book aficionado and lover of reading. Buzbee uses personal stories from his childhood to reflect on how he became fascinated with and by books. Buzbee’s delightful tale leaves no stories untold as he painstakingly describes his first job as a young bookstore clerk, and later as a publishing representative. Buzbee is a refined storyteller and regales the writer with cerebral facts about library history, banned books, the publishing industry and the simplicity of visiting his local bookstore to purchase new books of interest. Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop has that emotion-driven, literary appeal for everyone. The frolicking exploration of both book-making and book-selling from ancient Rome and China winding down to contemporary America is a university course within itself. While the author is quite competent and erudite in literary history, he does not shy away from tackling divisive issues of the day, such as Amazon online and the impact of big box bookstores on the small independents shops Buzbee likes to frequent. Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop gets a thumbs up! – Carter B. Cue
Biograph y 5 3
Biography The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
B DUMAS, T.
I finished this book in December 2012, and it was the best book I read that year and also so far in 2013. Alexandre Dumas was born in Haiti, then SaintDomingue, to a French aristocrat father and a slave mother. After spending his youth in Saint-Domingue, he followed his father to Paris and took up life as a young, rich aristocrat. During the French Revolution, Dumas became a general and celebrated hero of France before his memory was forgotten, due in part to Napoleon’s prejudices. If this book was only about Dumas’ life, I would recommend everyone read it, if only so that this great man is not forgotten. However, Reiss does so much more as an author. By regularly taking tangents into French and world history, along with the political climate of the time, Reiss gives the reader a better understanding of how the French Revolution came about, how Napoleon’s coup ended it and the truly revolutionary ideas of the Revolutionary government (including ending slavery). The tangents do not detract from the story of Dumas, but rather highlight what a remarkable historical figure we have forgotten. I loved listening to this book on audio because the narrator smoothly pronounces the French proper names I would have stumbled over in my head. – Jennifer Lohmann
54 B i ogra p h y
The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Koofi with Nadene Gourhi
B KOOFI, F.
This was an amazing read! This book is about Fawzia Koofi, the first female Speaker of Parliament in Afghanistan. As a baby, she was left out in the sun to die because of the disappointment her mother felt about not having a son. Her mother eventually had a change of heart and brought her back inside. Fawzia grew up in constant fear of the radicals that took over her country. Her father and brother were both murdered; her husband was tortured by the Taliban numerous times and as a result eventually lost his life. She has had multiple death threats made against her own life, yet she has hope for Afghanistan. She dreams of a place where men and women can be treated equally, where daughters can be educated the same as sons. Very inspiring! – Jessica Bingham
How to Live - or - A Life of Montaigne: In One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
B MONTAIGNE, M.
I first picked up this book after reading an article that proclaimed Michel de Montaigne to be the first blogger. We discover that Montaigne was not afraid to examine and write about almost every aspect of his life and human nature, which was rarely seen in the 1500s. Bakewell introduces readers to Montaigne’s influential and challenging Essays by organizing the biography into 20 chapters themed around his observations, including “Be ordinary and imperfect,”“See the world” and “Guard your humanity,”“Reflect on everything; regret nothing” and “Do a good job, but not too good a job.” This is much more than a biography, and readers interested in history, philosophy, literary criticism and self-help will enjoy Bakewell’s exploration of Montaigne. – Jennifer Scott
Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season by Jonathan Eig
B ROBINSON, J.
Opening Day was an excellent read! It takes us back to Jackie Robinson’s youth and shows us how he made it to opening day on April 15, 1947. We follow his life during that time and learn how he became the first African American to break into major league baseball through many trials and tribulations. The book was moving and truly inspiring. Legend Jackie Robinson’s story was well told. This book is not just for baseball fans, but is a part of history. This title is also available in Large Print. – Anita Robinson
Biograph y 5 5
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
B CURTIS, E.
I purchased a postcard in Oregon twenty years ago of Native Americans on horseback traveling across a wide canyon. I bought it because it spoke to me of a time past that showed men living in respect and as part of a beautiful land. I didn’t know who took the picture, but I was instantly drawn to its haunting image. Recently I was browsing the new nonfiction books at East Regional Library when a picture on the front of the book jacket caught my attention, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. The aged photograph on the cover showed a young Curtis looking up to the top of a canyon with several Native Americans. One distinguished Native American, wearing an elaborate headdress, has his gaze locked and index finger pointed up towards the distance. I opened the book, looked at the many photographs and found my canyon picture. The photographer was Edward Curtis; the title was “Canyon de Chelle.” I was fascinated. Curtis’s life was as wondrous as the photographs he took. In 1920, he saw that Indians (as he called them) were quickly disappearing; their culture, their traditions and their religions were rapidly vanishing. He wanted to record and save as much of their heritage as he could for future generations. He understood that once the multitude of diverse tribes died off, their cultures would be extinct. He boldly embarked on the enormous challenge of compiling a 20 volume set entitled The North American Indian. Each set recorded the customs and traditions of different native tribes throughout the United States. Timothy Egan’s book follows Curtis as he chases his dream of writing this historical/anthropological masterpiece. Not only is Curtis’s life a record of his own passionate drive to preserve the Indian heritage, but the physical and mental toll this ambition took. The set took him thirty years to finish. Egan writes that Curtis took more than 40,000 pictures, recorded 10,000 songs, “… wrote down vocabularies and pronunciation guides for 75 languages and transcribed an incalculable number of myths, rituals and religious stories from oral histories.” (p. 322) As a result, he was constantly broke, lost his marriage and his health. But, the award was this: he finished the 20 volume set, he
56 B i ogra p h y
preserved many tribal customs for today’s generations of Native Americans and all Americans and he followed his dream, no matter what the cost. Egan’s book eloquently describes the physical, emotional and mental price. The drive consumed Curtis, but I am convinced he believed the goal was worth his life. When I look at the “Canyon de Chelle” postcard today, I now see the man behind the camera, the “Shadow Catcher,” as some Indian tribes named him. His photographs reveal not only the diverse lives of the Native American, but the devotion and respect of the man behind the lens. – Archie Burke
The Years of Lyndon Johson by Robert A. Caro
B JOHNSON, L.
Although he was a physically imposing man, Lyndon Johnson’s size was no match for his drive and determination to one day reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When I decided to find out more about the man who was capable of extremes ranging from holding press conferences while using the toilet to signing the Civil Rights Bill, I chose Robert Caro’s four-volume work The Years of Lyndon Johnson, which includes The Path to Power, Means of Ascent, Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power. Caro’s volumes are a result of over 25 years of research and interviews. Throughout each volume, Caro gives the reader a very intimate view into the life of one of the most dynamic political masters to lead our country. From his early childhood, it was obvious that Johnson liked to win. Not only did he like to win, he had to dominate whatever situation he was in. This ambition ultimately led him to realize his dream of becoming Commander-in-Chief. We have all heard the outrageous stories about President Johnson, but it is the stories about him teaching in a small southern Texas town or displaying his extreme determination to succeed by campaigning while suffering from appendicitis that allows the reader to connect to him on a personal level. These well-researched, but little-known stories about his life help paint a picture of his private, internal struggles and the price, literally and figuratively, he paid to be the leader of the free world. – Terry B. Hill
Biograph y 5 7
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
B JESUS CHRIST
I found this to be a very interesting read, and some might even see it as controversial. I think that if this book had come out while I was doing my undergraduate in Religious Studies, it would have been required reading. It is hard to tell what the historical Jesus would have been like, but this book does a great job of explaining the time in which he grew up and practiced his ministry. By doing this, the reader is able to gain a picture of what Jesus could have been like. Aslan also goes into detail about the various tumultuous events that happened in Jerusalem up until the Jewish Revolt between 66 and 70 A.D. He discusses the other “messiahs” that came after Jesus of Nazareth. He also touches on the formation of Christianity as we know it and the parts played in forming this religion by Paul, James and Peter. – Jessica Bingham
58 Gr aphi c N o v el s
Graphic Novels A Bride’s Story. 1 by Kaoru Mori
Ridiculously gorgeous! A Bride’s Story is a beautifully drawn slice-of-life manga set in 19th century Central Asia by Kaoru Mori. It centers around 20-yearold Amir and her new husband, 12-year-old Karluk, as they enter into their arranged marriage. Don’t worry about the potential ick factor of the age disparity though, since the story focuses more on the daily life of the couple and less on any marital intimacy (there is some slight nudity). As a history buff, I loved this manga because Mori did an excellent job of bringing to life the roles and customs of the people in Central Asia. However, what really hooked me on this series is the artwork itself. It is truly unlike anything I have ever seen. The ornate costumes, lavish decor and meticulous landscapes make each page a work of art. This is not a story that you will want to rush through; instead, take the time to appreciate each scene as it unfolds. – Lauren Doll
G raph ic Nove ls 5 9
Asterix Omnibus. 2 by Rene Goscinny
This book is a compilation of three novels about a pint-size warrior of ancient France, then called Gaul. His village is the sole holdout against their Roman conquerors due to a magical potion brewed by the village druid (a sort of healer priest) which gives them supernatural strength. In the first story, the village bard, Cacofonix, is captured by the Romans and sent to Julius Caesar as a gift. Asterix and his friend Obelix, a chubby menhir carver, join the ranks of the arena gladiators to rescue him. At the end, they free not only Cacofonix, but also the rest of the gladiators, who prefer to become peace loving as well. The second story has the Romans trying a new twist on the Gaulish village. Since they cannot overpower them physically, they decide to isolate them from the rest of Gaul by trapping them behind a stockade. However, Asterix bets the military inspector responsible that not only will he and Obelix escape, but will travel all over Gaul, bringing back samples of its regional specialties to share with him. Despite the inspector’s efforts to stop him, they succeed in procuring the items for the banquet, assisted by their compatriots in each region. The third story introduces Asterix and Obelix to Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. When Julius Caesar makes a disparaging remark about her country, Cleopatra loses her temper and decrees that she will have a palace built for him within three months to prove her people’s worth. The architect selected is not overly skillful, but has an old friend Getafix, the druid of Asterix’s village, to lend him magical aid. Despite the efforts of rival architect Amonbofis and the Roman army, they are eventually successful in building the palace. This book is a comedic look at a time in history with a what-if theme. I chose this particular omnibus as it shows some of the other areas of Gaul as well as a different country. While certain races are drawn in an extremely old-fashioned manner (read the book to see what I mean), it is still an entertaining read. – Laurel Jones
60 Graphi c N o v el s
The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes
F CLOWES, D.
Art and indie comics spend a surprising amount of energy on re-examining the superhero narrative, and Dan Clowes (Ice Haven, Mr. Wonderful, Wilson) joined the conversation with The Death-Ray, initially published in an issue of his long-running but infrequently published series Eightball. Upon smoking his first cigarette, teenager Andy gets an intense dose of nausea and a temporary state of invincibility. Combined with an heirloom ray gun and a homemade costume, Andy’s new-found power makes him an angst-ridden force to be reckoned with. This story smashes Spider-Man’s idea of power and responsibility into a question mark-shaped pile of debris as only the creator of teenaged identity crisis classic Ghost World could, and Clowes’ stylish page composition and nervous, retro record cover-like artwork make for an unsettling, thought-provoking read. – Patrick Holt
Feynman by Jim Ottaviani
B FAYNMAN, R.
“If that’s the world’s smartest man, God help us,” reads the blurb on the cover. It’s a quote from Feynman’s mother. Dr. Richard Feynman was one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and also one of its funniest people. This graphic biography delves into Feynman’s bizarre and happy life, often relating stories from Feynman’s own books, and also manages to present Feynman’s wonderful and accessible lectures on physics. A Nobel Prize winner who sincerely believed in bringing science to the people, this comic does a great job of making the man himself accessible. This is a wonderful portrayal of the touching life of a Nobel Prize-winning prankster, safecracker, wisecracker and raconteur. I found myself crying a little bit when I realized it was over. I didn’t want the story − or the man − to end. – Matthew Z. Wood
G raph ic Nove ls 6 1
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
B SATRAPI, M.
This was the first graphic novel I ever read, after mistakingly thinking that the genre was not for me. I couldn’t put it down, reading much of the compilation in one day. Originally published in France, multiple volumes were combined into one for the U.S. edition. Satrapi uses stark,yet compelling illustrations to tell her story of growing up in Iran in the 1970s and 1980s – from living as a young girl under the Shah’s regime, to the Islamic revolution of 1979, to war with Iraq. We follow young Satrapi as she struggles to maintain her unique personality and freedom as increasing restrictions and hardships surround her. Her parents, recognizing this independence and fearing for their daughter’s safety, send young Marji to Austria to further her education. In later editions, we then witness her high school years in Vienna, and see her homecoming and ensuing self-imposed exile from Iran. This is a powerful and touching autobiography, one that is hard to put down and equally hard to forget. – Jennifer Scott
Sand Castle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters
F LEVY, P.
Sand Castle is a rare thing: a science fiction story (or is it fantasy?) that relies on such a small twist away from our lives that events unfold beneath our noses, almost without our noticing. A dozen vacationers arrive on a secluded French beach to find a pleasant day and uncannily still waters, but also an unexplained corpse. Accusations and speculations fly among the visitors as, unbeknownst to them, a larger situation slowly emerges that will ultimately envelope them all in its inevitable embrace. Levy’s storytelling and dialogue are expertly written (thankfully) to give the barest hint of deeper meaning beyond the story itself, and characters are believable and compelling, whether sympathetic or not. Peeters’ art is a beautiful combination of delicate lines and deep blacks, and the mysterious events at the center of the story give him the opportunity to show off his impressive expertise at subtle observation of that most difficult of subjects: the human face and figure. Sand Castle is a haunting book that deserves multiple readings and highest recommendations. – Patrick Holt
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Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
YAF TAMAKI, M.
Skim is, first and foremost, a beautiful book. Jillian Tamaki is an amazing artist in an incredible range of styles and formats, and Skim is a good introduction to everything she’s capable of. Her linework is delicate, her use of gray tones is subtle and her page layout is skillful and impressive, both when conventional and when boundary-pushing. The story, written by Jillian’s cousin Mariko Tamaki, covers high school themes and topics without falling into the dual of melodrama and Important Lessons. “Skim” is the nickname of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, whose outsider status at school is sometimes by choice and sometimes not. A barrage of major events in her life and at school turn her world inside out, slowly leading her to re-evaluate her investment in her own personal identity and those of others as well. Highly recommended for teens and adults alike. – Patrick Holt
You n g Adu lt Fic t ion 6 3
Young Adult Fiction Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
YAF WEIN, E.
I loved this book. It is the story of two female friends during World War II. One is a pilot code name “Kitty Hawk,” the other is a spy code name “Verity.” They fly into France, where Verity has to bail out when their plane is hit by enemy fire. She is eventually captured, questioned and tortured by the Nazis. The story is told through a series of written confessions, accident reports, notes and letters. I don’t want to give too much away; all I can say is, “KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me QUICK!” This book is definitely worth your time to read! – Jessica Bingham
64 Y o ung Ad ul t F i c ti o n
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
YAF PRATCHETT, T.
Having read nearly forty books by Terry Pratchett, mostly adult fantasy fiction, I was suprised anew by how well Terry Pratchett writes historical fiction. Set in Victorian London, this Young Adult novel explores the sewers of the city and the oddities of social strata through the eyes of Dodger, a young ragamuffin who is a “tosher” (one who searches the sewers for items of value). In this quest to help a mysterious young woman escape her assailants and start a new life, Dodger meets interesting historical figures such as Charles Dickens and Sweeney Todd. Details of street life in London alone are enough reason to read this delightful book. – Lisa L. Dendy
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
YAF GREEN, J.
A story about a sick girl who meets a funny boy at a cancer support group. You will laugh, you will cry and, above all, you will thank your lucky stars that you read this book. – Claudia Aleman de Toomes
You n g Adu lt Fic t ion 6 5
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
YAF GREEN, J.
Hazel is 17, and she’s dying of cancer. She lugs around an oxygen tank to breathe, but even so, her lungs are slowly filling with water. As she puts it, her lungs just basically suck at being lungs. After spending most of her teenage years in and out of hospitals and undergoing tests, she’s ready to spend the rest of them re-reading her favorite book, watching America’s Next Top Model and thinking about death. Her mom, of course, is having none of this. So it’s off to cancer support group she goes, a place where cancer patients are heroes and everyone strives to “live their best life today!” Just as she prepares herself for another agonizingly cheerful discussion, she meets fellow cancer patient Augustus Waters, diagnosis osteosarcoma. So then there’s Augustus. Basically he’s gorgeous, charming and refreshingly sarcastic; but, most importantly, he gets her. His intensity of being seems to fit perfectly with her witty intelligence. Try as she might not to, Hazel “falls in love the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.” And in this way their story begins... This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It made me think about life, death and all the moments in between. This is not a cancer book. It’s not about death and dying. This book is about life and the universal questions we all ponder or try not to ponder every day. This book is a love story, not a silly story about infatuation, but a story about true love in all its honesty, pain, and beauty. This story was heartbreakingly beautiful, thoughtful and real. I loved it, and I loved all the feelings it made me feel. Recommended for 8th grade and up. – Heather Cunningham
66 Y o ung Ad ul t F i c ti o n
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
YAF ARMSTRONG, K.
Kelley Armstrong is one of those authors that I will read absolutely anything they write. I picked this book up having no idea what it was about and finished it the same day I started it. The story is about an adopted girl named Maya. She and her family live in a remote hamlet in Vancouver. It was set up by a research facility owned by the St. Cloud family. They provide the very best of everything for their citizens: the best doctors, school, etc. No one, with the exception of a limited few, ever leave. It would be a breach of contract with the company. Maya leads the life of a normal teenage girl, until her best friend Serena “accidentally” drowns at the beginning of the book. Serena is the captain of the swim team...cough, cough, not an accident…cough! (Oh, excuse me. I must have had a tickle in my throat.) Maya and her best friend Daniel, Serena’s ex-boyfriend, finally talk about her death approximately one year later and decide that things don’t quite add up. They set out to discover the truth. Around this time, a strange reporter comes to town and winds up dead. A new boy Rafe and his “strange” sister Annie move into a cabin on the outskirts of town. Rafe is a little rough around the edges, but Maya begins to feel an attraction towards him. But Rafe is hiding a huge secret! The book, of course, ends on a cliff hanger...a fire is spreading through the town, a lot faster than it really should. Maya and Daniel think someone is deliberately setting fire to the forest to get medical secrets from the St. Cloud’s. This is the first book in a wonderfully written trilogy. Pick it up! – Jessica Bingham
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
YAF FORMAN, G.
A young girl named Mia is gravely injured in a catastrophic car accident and must make the choice to wake up to a life that will be more difficult than she could ever imagine or to slip away and die. As she reflects on her life and memories, the reader feels her passion and her pain. This would be a great pick for a book club. It’s the type of book that you will not be able to stop thinking about, even after you’ve finished reading it. If you were faced with her same choice, to live or die, what would you choose? – Amber Huston
You n g Adu lt Fic t ion 6 7
Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
YAF EVANS, R.
Michael Vey lives in what could be contemporary “small town” Idaho and attends high school like most young adults his age. He experiences the shyness, bullying, and frustrations of most kids; but Michael is different. First, he has a syndrome that causes him to blink like crazy whenever he is nervous or stressed. Second, he has the power to stop the bullying directed at him, but allows it to keep his cover and protect himself and his widowed mother. Michael’s best friend Ostin, a nerdy, slightly overweight genius who glories in homework and takes online practice tests of all sorts for fun, is the only person besides his family who knows his secret. This secret will later interest an opulent world-wide secret organization, Elgen Academy, in capturing Michael and others like him; or, if they cannot capture him, they will kidnap someone that will draw Michael to them. When Michael finally gets tired of being bullied and reveals his secret, zapping three bullies in the schoolyard with several hundreds volts of electrical current, an onlooker, Taylor (Michael’s crush), sees him and later reveals that she has electrical powers of her own. Together, with Ostin’s help, the trio search for an explanation to Michael and Taylor’s electrical powers. The search leads to trouble and the adventure of a lifetime. Almost overnight Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 became one of my new favorite books. With semi-shy Michael who doesn’t quite fit in, the popular but kind Taylor, the comical nerdy genius Ostin (who is exceptionally girl-crazy, but inept at talking to the opposite sex, despite his immaculate intellect), villeins who seem like “good guys” (if you couldn’t read between the lines and see how terribly evil they really are), stunning action and a strong sense of friendship, loyalty, self sacrifice and conflict between love and hate, you can’t really get a better story. – Christopher Johnson
68 Y o ung Ad ul t F i c ti o n
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
YAF DESSEN, S.
Emmaline is spending her last summer before college in the small beach town of Colby where she grew up. She’s doing the usual things: working at her family’s beach rental company and hanging out with friends. Plus, her longtime boyfriend Luke is one of the hottest guys in town, not to mention the sweetest. What more could anyone want? Things seem to be pretty perfect, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a typical Colby summer until... Emmaline meets Theo. Passionate, energetic Theo who’s different from Colby boys. He’s just brimming with ideas and plans and ambition. A small town like Colby can barely contain his enthusiasm. When he sets his sights on Emmaline, it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. Will this be the summer that changes her life? This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot starts off slow, but Dessen does a brilliant job at developing the characters. Emmaline’s questions about her future and the person she wants to be will resonate with any teen making that leap into adulthood. I loved that her summer romance seemed like it could really happen, and the ending was both realistic and empowering. Recommended for high school and up. – Heather Cunningham
You n g Adu lt Fic t ion 6 9
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
YAF SANDERSON, B.
Gearpunk meets Steampunk, mystery mixes with science fiction, and dark forces engage fantasy. Open the book and you are instantly intrigued by its unusual text. Rithmatists are given powers that give their chalk lines and geometric shapes invisible force. Normal humans cannot see these shapes, but instantly feel their impact when they run into them or must combat them. The main character, Joel, yearns to be a Rithmatist. He has all the knowledge about Rithmatics taught to him by his dead father, but he has not been chosen. Joel is passionate and determined, however, and convinces his favorite professor to employ him as an assistant. A warrior Rithmatist arrives and usurps the professor’s position, thus the nightmare begins. Young Rithmatist students start to disappear, believed murdered. Strange lines and shapes appear that are new to the Rithmatists, and Joel begins his quest to unravel the mysterious murderer. The plot will take you on new turns and twists, new shapes and thought patterns, and it is all fascinating. I was spellbound and caught by surprise at the ending. If Sherlock Holmes was unlocking a geometric world full of invisible power, he would want this book as his guide. Better yet, there’s a sequel to come! – Archie Burke
The Van Alen Legacy: A Blue Bloods Novel by Melissa de la Cruz
YAF DE LA CRUZ, M.
Blue Bloods are the richest, stylish and most sophisticated people in Manhattan; they also happen to be vampires. Sixteen-year-old Shuyler Van Alen has discovered her true history as a member of this elite group, but there are still so many secrets to uncover. What is the Van Alen legacy? And why is she suddenly forced to flee the country after the death of her grandfather? Could anyone really believe she’s the killer? The fantasy, romance, bloodlust and intrigue continue in the fourth book of this vampire series. The Van Alen Legacy continues in the style of the first three books and does not disappoint. If you are a fan of Twilight, you will definitely enjoy this series. Recommended for middle to high school. – Heather Cunningham
70 Y o ung Ad ul t F i c ti o n
Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford
YAF BRADFORD, C.
For a person who is biased towards swords and early medieval/oriental history, this book is a real find. It has several of the chief elements I look for in a book. There was action. There was a reasonably realistic plot filled with intriguing culture. Additionally, there were thought-provoking passages about seeking to better one’s self and contemplating life in general. The book begins in the 1600s with dual tragedies. The first is brief, a samurai lord whose son is murdered, and the second, an English boy who loses his father and everything he knows shortly after shipwrecking off the coast of Japan. Jack, the boy, is rescued by a native and wakes up in a world where he cannot understand the language or the customs. The Samurai Lord Masamoto adopts him, believing that Jack was sent to him as “a gift from the gods” to replace the son he lost a few years earlier. Despite his new status, Jack is called a “gaijin” (barbarian) by his foster brother Yamato and many others. After Jack saves Yamato from a ninja attack (that was partly Jack’s fault to begin with), Jack is taken off to samurai school. In school, besides learning the way of the warrior, which is as much about virtues and conquering self as it is about fighting, Jack learns that even his closest friend and advocate Akiko does not think he can ever be equal to native samurai. Through a series of events, Yamato becomes disgraced for not standing up for Jack and his friends and runs away. The fight that started Yamato’s disgrace also was fuel for a prestigious competition between two rival samurai schools. In the competition the head of the opposing school came up with an excuse to change one of the set competitors with Yamato, who, having “lost face” before his school and father, seems intent on making his father “lose face” as well. In the end Yamato is reconciled to his father, and Jack is a hero who has learned both selflessness and demonstrated forgiveness. He also faces “Dragon Eye,” the ninja who killed his father and Masamoto’s oldest son, with friends, and they narrowly escapes with their lives. This is a book where martial arts and Japanese weaponry can meet with poetry and self mastery. It is also a tale about overcoming bullying, racism and forgiveness. It is an excellent read. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is far more important than fear.” (pg. 191) – Christopher Johnson
You n g Adu lt Fic t ion 7 1
Zom-B (Book 1) by Darren Shan
YAF SHAN, D.
I absolutely loved this book. Darren Shan really is the “Master of Horror” for tweens and teens. This book has two story lines happening in it. Storyline 1: Zom-B is about a teenager named B who lives in London. There are reports of zombie attacks in Ireland, but just about everyone believes it’s a hoax, until an attack happens at B’s school. While running for their lives, they realize that this attack was a set up. The students are locked in the school with the zombies and a couple of “mutants” that appear to be controlling the zombies. ** Spoiler alert ** Most of the teenagers die, including B. Storyline 2: Zom-B is also about a B’s relationship with her racist, abusive father. B struggles throughout the book with her feelings for her dad. She hates him because he beats up her mother and herself. She hates him because he is a racist. But, she loves him because he is her father, and she wants nothing more in the world to please him. I was not expecting this type of story in a Zombie book. It was a pleasant surprise. B’s father storms the school in order to save her. They blaze through the school and when they reach the blocked doors, they try to break them open. In order to gain more time, B’s father demands that she “throw the black kid at them [the zombies].” B does not think; she does what her father says and throws Trevor (you have to read the book to read more about the troubled relationship that B and Trevor have) at the zombies, who immediately start feasting on him. B is repulsed by her actions and finally sees what a monster her father really is. (I know I did not do a great job explaining just how awful her father is, but read the book. Trust me, he is a terrible man.) She decides that she would rather take her chances with the zombies than be saved by a “monster” like him. She runs back towards the zombies where Trevor is waiting, and he forces his hand inside her chest, removes and eats her stillpulsing heart as she watches and dies. – Jessica Bingham
72 Juve nil e F i c ti o n
Juvenile Fiction Amulet. Book 1, The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
JF KIBUISHI, K.
This graphic novel series begins with a shocking car crash and death on a mountain cliff one dark, stormy night. After the tragedy, Emily, Navin and their mom relocate to an old family house in the middle of nowhere, hoping to recover. Once there, however, Emily discovers a powerful amulet, and it turns out there’s also something dark and perilous lurking in the basement. When a strange creature suddenly abducts their mother, things get really creepy, and a lengthy chase to rescue her begins. They follow the monster down into the depths of the basement and suddenly emerge into a completely new world filled with mystery and magic. Excitement abounds in this strange place, but danger is never too far behind. Life for this family may never be the same again. Amulet is surprisingly realistic and deals with some pretty heavy topics, but there are definitely kids out there who can relate. The fantasy aspect of the story is intriguing and full of adventure. Kibuishi’s imagination breeds an unusual yet interesting storyline and cast of creature characters. This is a great pick for late elementary to middle school, especially for reluctant readers. – Heather Cunningham
Ju ve n ile Fic t ion 7 3
Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji
JF NANJI, S.
This is the story of a 15-year-old girl named Sabine. She is an Indian Muslim who was born in Uganda. It takes place during the early 1970s, when President Idi Amin ordered that all Indians must leave Uganda within 90 days or face severe punishment. Sabine feels very confused by this. She was born in Uganda, but she considers herself African. Her best friend Zena, who is African, starts off by saying that Sabine has nothing to worry about. It’s only the British Indians who have to leave. But as the days wear on, Sabine’s beloved uncle Zully goes missing, her father is forced into hiding and various shops and houses owned by Indians are either closed or given over to the African Ugandans. Sabine and Zena’s friendship is also put to the test and appears to fail. Zena listens to President Amin and the soldiers walking the streets, and she starts to believe that all Indians, including Sabine and her family, must leave Uganda. Sabine is heartbroken. She and her family eventually flee the country and are admitted into Canada. She hopes to one day return to Uganda to see her Bapa (grandfather) and Zena again. – Jessica Bingham
The Clockwork Dark Trilogy by John Claude Bemis
JF BEMIS, J.
Nine Pound Hammer, The Wolf Tree and the White City make up the Clockwork Dark Trilogy. John Claude Bemis is the 2013 Piedmont Laureate and a wonderful storyteller in the best North Carolina tradition. In a story that weaves classic American myths into a wonderful slightly-steampunk tale of good and evil, his characters are both brave and frightened by the world around them. Set in North Carolina, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and in Chicago, this is a journey you and your younger friends will want to take. – Joanne Abel
74 Juve nil e F i c ti o n
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
JF KONIGSBURG, E.
A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last December inspired me to re-read this favorite from my childhood. Sister and brother Claudia and Jamie run away from home to hide in the Metropolitan. Claudia provides the impetus – rebellion against parental injustices – while Jamie funds their adventure. While there, the two become determined to discover the answer to the mystery swirling around the newly displayed statue “Angel.” Was she carved by Michelangelo? Claudia and Jamie work day and night to amass clues, and finally follow the trail to its end: the “mixed-up” files of the statue’s former owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. – Jan Seabock
Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes
JF SPARKES, A.
This story combines several genres: mystery, science fiction and history. As implied by the title, it is a story of two young people who were cryogenically frozen by their ahead-of-his-time scientist father in the year 1956. Revived (albeit accidentally) in the year 2010, by the niece and nephew of a family member, they set about coping with their new time, briefly attending a 2010 public school and attempting to find out what happened to their missing father. However, the government agency that had employed their father still has secrets, and agents are sent after them! They also learn that the cryogenic suspension had an unhealthy after-effect: blood loss and gradual blindness. After a wild chase from two government agencies, they are rescued and find out that their father had been hidden away in Russia! After a trade between countries, the families are reunited. While the school is not portrayed in the best light, the book is an interesting tale about people out of time and how they adjust to a different way of life. – Laurel Jones
Ju ve n ile Fic t ion 7 5
The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith
JF MCCALL SMITH, A.
Many of you may have read one or more of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Now you or your children can get the author’s view of how Precious Ramotswe got interested in becoming a detective and an entrepreneur. The portrayal of the characters and of Botswana are very well done, and the illustrations are superb. As you might have guessed, I heartily recommend this book, whether you’ve read the adult series or not. – Joyce Sykes
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
JF LAI, T.
This story in free verse begins in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War. The main character Ha is an assertive 10-year-old girl who loves her papaya tree and buying sweets at the market. She tells the first part of her story through short poems that illustrate the effects of the war in Saigon even as day-to-day life continues. Bombs go off nearby as her family discusses the possibility of staying or abandoning their home forever. When the decision is finally made to leave, they face weeks at sea, refugee camps in Guam and Florida and eventually a sponsor placement in Alabama. Ha loves the “cowboy” that takes them in, but life in America is hard. The food is plain, the people are cold and English makes absolutely no sense. After so much change and heartache, will Ha find her place in this new life? This is a beautifully written novel. The free verse poems flow with deep emotion that makes you laugh at Ha’s spiritedness while simultaneously feeling her pain. The transition from Saigon to Alabama is a stark contrast. Thanhha Lai clearly illustrates the cultural bias and alienation that can often take place in these situations. As Ha learns about American customs and language, you easily see things from her perspective. In the end, I can’t help but agree with her, “Whoever invented English should have learned to spell!” Recommended for upper elementary to middle school. – Heather Cunningham
76 Juve nil e F i c ti o n
Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
JF CARLSON, C.
Hilary Westfield has the same problem I had when growing up: she is a tomboy at heart. She can do anything boys can do, if given half a chance. That’s where the problem begins, because the Nearly Honorable League of Pirates won’t let girls in their club. Hilary can tread water longer and tie a knot faster than any of those pirate-wannabes. She even has her own sword, and yet they won’t accept her as part of the crew simply because she’s a girl! If her family has their way, she will soon be off to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, learning to waltz, faint and curtsy. Hilary and her best friend, a talking gargoyle, will have none of that. All her life Hilary has wanted to be a pirate, and she is not going to let a bunch of runny-nosed scallywags keep her from following her dreams. Hillary answers a mysterious advertisement soliciting a crew of pirates and, with that, her voyage begins. She sets out on a journey filled with magic, treasure, villains and adventure! Despite the title, the pirates in this book aren’t so bad; in fact, you will often find yourself rooting for them. If you are tired of fiendish, over-the-top, throatcutting pirates give this title a try. It is lighthearted and more humorous than scary. The pirates actually bring to mind the characters from Disney’s Peter Pan. This story will leave you laughing out loud and sitting on pins and needles as you anticipate what’s happening on the next page. Just wait until you find out who the supervillain is; you won’t believe it! I still don’t believe it! Check this book out today. All the twists and turns will make you happy that Carlson started this series, but anxious for her to finish the next installment. Part of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. Recommended for ages 8-12. – Anna Cromwell
Ju ve n ile Fic t ion 7 7
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
JF DICAMILLO, K.
This is a wonderful, heartfelt story for readers young and old. As the book begins we meet Edward, a china-doll rabbit who thinks pretty highly of himself. Edward is owned by Abilene, a little girl who absolutely adores him. He spends his days staring out the window and generally thinking about himself while waiting for Abilene to come home. One day something terrible happens, and Edward is lost. He soon finds himself alone and helpless at the bottom of the ocean. A chain reaction of events then begins as Edward is found and lost and found again. On this adventure, he passes from owner to owner and place to place, but the biggest journey he takes is the one that happens within his own heart. This is a touching story that will make you smile as you experience love and loss through the eyes of a porcelain rabbit. I enjoyed reading this book even though it did make me cry, a lot! Recommended for readers of all ages. â€“ Heather Cunningham
78 Juve nil e F i c ti o n
No Bones About It by Nancy Krulik
JF KRULIK, N.
This book is another Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo adventure in the popular series by Nancy Krulik, and it’s a good one. In this story, Katie and her third grade classmates visit a natural history museum. Katie’s classmates tease her and call her a “goodie, goodie,” because she never gets in trouble. In the museum, she is determined to cause some kind of mischief, but she never gets a chance. That’s because she ends up trying to stop her classmates from wrecking the dinosaur exhibit. The switcheroo tag under all the Katie Kazoo books is her magical wind. When she least expects it, the magic wind blows on her, transforming her into another person or an animal. In one of the books, she turned into her dog, Pepper. In this story, she becomes the boring Mr. Weir, the museum tour guide. When one of the boys causes the replica of a dinosaur skeleton to collapse, she is able to help resolve the problem. As Mr. Weir, she supervises her classmates as they reassemble the bones. Later, she returns to her own body. That’s when a top paleontologist visits the museum and compliments the kids for putting the bones together properly. Once again, her magic wind saved the day. The Katie Kazoo series remains popular with young readers because Katie is a lot like them. She likes to have fun, has favorite foods and TV shows and hates homework. Read this book, and have a good time with Katie Kazoo. – Tom Czaplinski
Ju ve n ile Fic t ion 7 9
Shadows on Society Hill: An Addy Mystery by Evelyn Coleman
JF COLEMAN, E.
This mystery story takes up the American Girl series where the books left off with the story Changes for Addy. After Addy helps to save a man from a runaway horse, he offers her father a job working for him. As it turns out, the man lives in a wealthy neighborhood called Society Hill. After an encounter with the police on the way, the family moves into a house in the back of their employer’s home. Addy loves it, but soon learns that there is something strange going on at the house. She is also denigrated by the mother of her father’s employer, who is quite prejudiced. It turns out that there is an escaped slave hiding out in the house. When things come to a head after an accusation of stealing is made, Addy learns that her father’s boss’s fiancée is actually “passing” for white. Everything is resolved for Addy’s family, but the question of whether the marriage will take place is left as a cliffhanger. This is a combination of mystery and historical genres in one story. The heroine is strong, likeable and smart. It is a smoothly told story with quite a bit to offer, particularly with the African American history notes given in the very back of the book. – Laurel Jones
80 Juve nil e F i c ti o n
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis
JF PASTIS, S.
I’ve never read “Pearls Before Swine,” Stephan Pastis’ comic strip. I saw an advertisement for this juvenile fiction book and was captivated by the character on the cover. Timmy Failure, with his slightly askew scarf, inspired me to spend some time in his world. Timmy shares his world with his mom, his polar bear Total, his classmates Rollo Tookus, Molly Moskins and Corrina Corrina, and the local librarian Flo (which does *not* stand for Florence). Most of Timmy’s time is devoted to his detective agency, Total Failure, Inc., with teleconference calls, investigations on his mom’s Segway, cases (mostly unsolved, or solved by someone else) and schemes to get more business. Timmy suffers a few setbacks, such as temporarily losing the Failuremobile, watching his profits being eaten by a chicken-nugget loving polar bear and being the love object of a girl who smells like tangerines. But you have to root for a guy who wears a hat that says “biscuits.” – Lisa L. Dendy
Ju ve n ile Non f ic t ion 8 1
Juvenile Nonfiction The Big Book of Crafts and Activities by James Michem
J 745.508 BIG
This book has everything!! Crafts, recipes, furniture makeovers, sewing, gardening ideas, sleep-over games and more! There really is something for everyone. I will say that for most of the activities children will need help from adults. â€“ Jessica Bingham
82 Juve nil e N o n fi c ti o n
The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide by Linda Ashman
J 811 ASHMAN
This book is a compilation of thirteen (a fitting number as it is sometimes associated with bad luck!) descriptions of monsters that are found throughout the world. The story begins with two children and a dog going off in a hot air balloon and finding a smaller copy of this book in a pocket of the balloon. Their journey begins in South America where they encounter a golden bird called the Alicanto who lures fortune hunters to their deaths off cliffs. Then they travel northward to Europe where they meet the famous “Nessie” of Loch Ness, escape a Scandinavian troll and the Grecian Sirens famous for nearly singing Greek hero Ulysses and his crew to their deaths. Their next destination is Asia, where they are almost caught by ghostly Hotots (evil spirit found in Armenian swamps), a ten-headed Indian Raksahsas demon and the Tengu of Japan, a part-bird, part-human flying creature. Finally after escaping a trio of Adlets, man-eating dog monsters and a coat stealing Sasquatch, the children land back at their house via parachute. While this book has more descriptions of monsters that are found in Europe and Asia, it covers each of the continents and is both slightly scary and funny. There are also gentler monsters mentioned, such as the unicorn-like Ki-Lin of China and a diminutive race of people found in Africa called the Abatwa. Those with a fondness for monster stories will be well entertained by this book. – Laurel Jones
Ju ve n ile Non f ic t ion 8 3
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna by Demi
J 294.521 DEMI
Demi can do no wrong in my opinion. The illustrations in this book are beautiful! This is a simple retelling of the story of Krishna which is perfect for young children. Krishna was sent by the gods to rescue humanity from the evil kings on Earth. The good, earthly King Ugrasena was imprisoned while Krishna was taken from his birth parents and given into the care of two cow herders, named Yashoda and Nanda. Throughout his youth, the evil King Kamsa sent many demons to kill Krishna, but he always prevailed. Krishna eventually frees King Ugrasena from his prison and tells the people that, “Everything I have done has been for the peace of the world.” After that, Krishna went all over the world helping people and teaching them how to live together peacefully. – Jessica Bingham
Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon
J 781.65 DILLON
This story is a fictional “dream team” of various jazz artists playing together at an unnamed club. Miles Davis opens on trumpet, then Max Roach plays drums and there is a saxophone duet with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Next to play is Thelonius Monk on piano and, after a guitar solo by a guest, Stanley Clark plays the bass and Ella Fitzgerald sings a bebop, doo-wop solo. While the story is set in the past, as shown by the clothing of the audience (and the fact that several of the musicians are no longer with us), the book is an engaging story telling all about the enjoyment that jazz music gave to African Americans, which is probably still the case. This book is also historically valuable for teaching those not of an age to have known the musicians mentioned about a uniquely American art form; complete with a CD that has a description of jazz music and the instruments used. The authors have also written a song of the same title that is included on the CD. – Laurel Jones
Myths Busted!: Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew
84 Juve nil e N o n fi c ti o n
by Emily Krieger
J 001.96 KRIEGER
This is a great book for curious kids!!! It busts myths such as porcupines throwing their quills, your heart stopping when you sneeze and gold fish having a three-second memory. And most importantly, it busts about eight myths dealing with spiders (Like, it is not true that the average person swallows up to four spiders while asleep in their life time....thank goodness!!). There are great pictures throughout the entire book. â€“ Jessica Bingham
Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook
J 920.009 COOK
This is an inspirational journey that shows the passing of the torch in history of great American heroes that invoked change in our nation. The illustrations are awesome and the historical value of the book is priceless. It is a beautiful book to share our American history and give all children a sense of pride. â€“ Jovanna Foreman
Ju ve n ile Non f ic t ion 8 5
The People Could Fly: The Picture Book by Virginia Hamilton
J 398.208 HAMILTON
This story is a simplified version, i.e. one in picture book form, of Ms. Hamilton’s earlier book of the same title. The book won a Coretta Scott King award for themes of non-violent social change, peace and brotherhood. The story begins in an unnamed country in Africa where there were those who could fly in the air on long, black wings. But then the slave trade came to their country and they lost their wings when captured (but not their power to fly!). The story then shifts to two of those that once had wings; a young mother named Sarah and an old man called Toby. When Sarah is beaten for slowing in her work and her baby cries, Toby helps her to remember the way to fly and she takes off with her child. Nor is she the only one; with Toby’s help, several men, women and children take off flying, including finally Toby himself. I have always regarded this story as a unique what-if of slavery times. It is designed as an oral tradition story put down on paper, and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, the same pair that wrote the book Jazz on a Saturday Night. This fact makes it yet another way in which this book is a very good read. – Laurel Jones
86 Juve nil e N o n fi c ti o n
Zora Neale Hurston, A Storyteller’s Life by Janelle Yates
JB HURSTON, Z.
This biography is part of an important series called Unsung Americans. Fortunately, since Zora Neale Hurston was rediscovered by the author Alice Walker in the late 1960s, she is not as unsung as she was for a number of years. Zora’s life is a classic example of the challenges that African-American females faced in the first half of the 20th century. The book concentrates on her struggles growing up in the black town of Eatonville in Florida, particularly her extraordinary efforts to get an education in spite of the death of her mother and the subsequent abandonment by her father and all of her family. The book does a thorough job of analyzing Zora’s early writing and research experiences as well as her relationship with various mentors, the most prominent of whom was Charlotte Mason, whom Zora referred to as her “godmother.” Unfortunately there is not as much included as I would have liked about the writing of her most famous work, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and also about her various friendships/romances with men, notably her relationship with the famous author Langston Hughes. – Joyce Sykes
Easy 8 7
Easy The City Kid & the Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti
E Pilutti, D.
This book is a modern-day version of the story The Country Mouse and the City Mouse. It is also told in a two-sided format: one half of the book is about a visit to the city and the other is about a visit to a suburb. The children involved are two boys who live in the different areas and are friends. Each of them invites the other to visit for a weekend. They do the same things on each visit, but they take place in different ways. Toward the end of their visit, however, each boy begins to miss his family and friends, and is relieved to go back home. The design of the book makes it seem to the reader as if you are reading two different stories. The fact that you have to flip the book is quite entertaining, and the stories are a good way of teaching brotherhood to children. â€“ Laurel Jones
88 E asy
Dog Breath!: The Horrible Terrible Trouble with Hally Tosis by Dav Pilkey
E PILKEY, D.
Each year I proclaim a title “Best Book of the Year!” This year my choice may confuse some people. Unlike previous years when the stories were always new, this book is an older title (1994). I recently read it during story-hour and the kids were rolling in the aisles; even the parents were in stitches. At first, I was a little baffled by their over-the-top response, but then I remembered, “Hey, this book is really funny and the illustrations are hilarious!” For those who haven’t heard it before, it holds the same magic I felt when I first read it and instantly fell in love with Hally, the little dog with extremely bad breath! Hally is a cute little dog that lives with the Tosis family. She is perfect in every way except for her breath, which is worse than anything you have ever smelled. When she’s around, the wallpaper peels off the walls and the leaves fall off the trees; even the skunks know to keep their distance. The real problem, however, doesn’t start until Grandma Tosis comes to town. In her excitement to greet grandma, Hally jumps up to say “Hello.” Her breath turns grandma as stiff as a board and she falls head-over-heels. “That is it!” says Mr. Tosis, “Hally has got to go!” What can the kids do to save their beloved Hally? They try everything, but nothing seems to work. The night before Hally is to be taken away, all hope seems lost until two burglars break into the Tosis’ home and encounter none other than Hally! The crooks have a really good laugh at this so-called watchdog; what could a cute little dog like this do? They soon find out that although her appearance is charming, her breath is quite alarming. Hally knocks the burglars out cold with one big sloppy kiss! Hooray! Hally is the toast of the town and featured in all the local newspapers. The Tosis family receives a big reward. They can’t bear to lose their “crime fighting” dog and so, with a few well-placed clothespins, they decide to keep their stinky, but loveable little Hally, and they all lived happily-ever-after…all but the crooks, that is. Dav Pilkey is well known for several popular characters in series including Super Diaper Baby, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot and Captain Underpants. I invite you to try some of his other works. I promise you won’t be disappointed. (Ages 4-8) – Anna Cromwell
Easy 8 9
Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley
E GORMLEY, G.
Nothing good ever comes from a dog emulating a cat, even when it is a fantastic and famous cat like Puss in Boots. You just know there’s going to be trouble when a dog has cat envy! You really cheer and root for this dog, however, because he is so cute. The illustrator does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life with his bright and vivid colors. The artwork compliments the text and adds a simple charm to the story. The dog in question has no name, but I instantly like him because he’s a reader. In fact, on the first page you will find him reading one of my favorite stories, “Puss in Boots.” The problem begins when the dog gets the not-sobright idea that if only he had boots like the cat in the story, he too could be brave and debonair. He ventures to a shop where he is given a pair of identical boots to those worn by the cat in the story. The boots are handsome, the boots are great, but the boots are no good for digging and dogs like to dig. This won’t do and so he takes the boots back and asks for boots that are good for digging. He is given a pair of galoshes. The shopkeeper is right that the galoshes are great for digging but not for swimming and dogs like to swim. So, once again, he returns to the store for an exchange. He soon works his way through several pairs of shoes; from high heels to flippers, there is something wrong with every pair. I’m not sure what store this is, but the return policy is absolutely amazing! Finally, the dog returns to exchange a pair of skis he has been given and implores the man to please give him something that will allow him to swim, run, dig and scratch; and it must be nice and furry. The shopkeeper looks at him with kind and patient eyes and says that he already has a pair of those, in fact he has two pairs. Dog looks down and, sure enough, the shopkeeper is right. To find out what dog saw when he looked down, check this book out today. Whether intentional or not, this story teaches children a simple lesson: be grateful for what you have because usually what you have is more than sufficient. (Ages 3-6) – Anna Cromwell
Don’t Wake Up the Bear! by Marjorie Dennis Murray
E MURRAY, M.
It’s hard to find picture books about bears that aren’t entertaining. Don’t Wake Up the Bear! is one of the best of all the bear books. The story begins on a cold winter evening. The first picture shows a big, brown bear asleep in a cave. Soon a hare comes hopping through the snow. Spotting the bear, she climbs onto his furry body to warm her ears. As the story progresses, more and more animals climb onto the bear to get warm. To each animal, the hare whispers, “You may come in, but don’t wake up the bear!” Each animal obeys so they can get warm. Trouble comes when a mouse with the sniffles joins the group and takes shelter in the bear’s ear. His sniffles get worse and he lets loose with a loud sneeze in the poor bear’s ear. Awake now, the disturbed bear roars his displeasure. Afraid that the bear will eat them, all the animals scurry away. Slowly, the bear walks over some winter berries peeking through the snow and begins to eat. The suspense in this story builds as each animal takes shelter on the bear, careful not to wake him. Who is going to wake the bear? What will he do when he wakes up? – Tom Czaplinski
Easy 9 1
The Elves’ First Christmas: The Untold Story of How the Elves First Met Santa by Atsuko Morozumi
E Morozumi, A.
There are more than enough Christmas picture books about Santa Claus. Author and illustrator Atsuko Morozumi has written an engaging tale of how a group of little elves came to be with Santa. The story begins with the elves being pushed out of their home in the trees by humans. The elves keep retreating farther and farther north, until they see a house in the valley below them. It is winter, and the elves take shelter in the warm barn next to the house. A friendly old man greets them the next day and offers to help them. He shows them how to build houses to keep them warm. They build their houses and stay at this new place. When the old man gets sick from overwork, the elves offer to help him. He tells them he needs toys made for children. It turns out the elves are marvelous toy makers. While the elves toil in the man’s workshop, he gets some much needed rest. He’s Santa Claus and, thanks to the elves’ expert help, he can now load his sleigh with toys to deliver to children for Christmas. The author’s illustrations are as warm and inviting as the Santa in his story. We already know about Santa’s elves making toys in his workshop, but now we know how Santa and his elves got together. This story is a welcome addition to the many Christmas picture books already on our bookshelves. – Tom Czaplinski
92 E asy
I Am So Handsome by Mario Ramos
E Ramos, M.
This is a story about a wolf that is very full of himself. He thinks he is the bestlooking animal in the forest. He comes across Little Red Riding Hood and asks her, “Who is the most handsome creature in the woods?” Red answers that it is him. Mr. Wolf then meets the Three Little Pigs and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. He asks each of them in turn, “Who is the most handsome animal in the woods?” They all reply that it is him. Finally, he meets a baby dragon. He asks the dragon the same question and the dragon answers, “My dad and he taught me to do this...” The baby dragon breathes fire onto the wolf and burns off most of his hair. Mr. Wolf is now no longer the most handsome creature in the forest. – Jessica Bingham
I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis
E CURTIS, C.
I fell in love with this book even before I had my daughter, first drawn in by the unique illustrations and rich colors. The book uses beautiful lyrical verse to tell the story of a young boy taking the moon for a walk before bed. Be sure to explore each picture thoroughly to catch subtle details such as the moon losing a shoe or ghosts flying out of a church tower. This was a definite favorite in our house from ages 0-2, but we still return to it again and again during illnesses or especially cuddly nights. It’s easy to understand why the book continues to enchant us; there is a soothing comfort in the rhythm of the story and the splendor of the illustrations. The back pages feature added information about the moon, plants and animals. Perfect for bedtime! – Jennifer Scott
I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss; pictures by Maurice Sendak
E Krauss, R.
First published in 1954, this is a fantastic book on friendship by two giants of children’s literature. It is funny, tender and a bit weird in the most wonderful way! Look for the chicken soup picture. Is that where the idea of Chicken Soup with Rice (1962) from Sendak’s Nutshell Library originated? – Joanne Abel
Easy 9 3
Jazzy in the Jungle by Lucy Cousins
E Cousins, L.
Jazzy the lemur is playing hide and seek with his mother in the jungle. This is a great book to read to toddlers. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. The pages have cutouts which make it fun to read! I have always enjoyed Lucy Cousins books. – Roseanne Smith
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
E WHEELER, E.
When I saw that the author of this book went to the same graduate school as me, I was anxious to read it. Will it be any good, I wondered? It’s original, cleverly written and pulls you into the author’s magical world. Miss Maple is a tiny woman who lives in a tree. She spends her hours on the back of a bluebird searching for orphan seeds. Miss Maple gathers them and nurtures them as if they were her own children. In one of the book’s pictures, the seeds are shown resting in tiny cribs as she reads to them by firefly light. Every page of this book has beautifully rendered pictures that pull you into this fanciful world. When the story ends, Miss Maple says, “Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small. But never forget that even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.” These words are accompanied by a picture of her standing by yellow flowers growing beneath the tall trees. This is an incredible book. Not only is the author a wonderful storyteller, but her illustrations are as engaging as her words. One of the pictures shows her standing on the branch of an oak tree, gently pushing off acorns to float down to the ground. Wheeler’s illustrations are so good that she received the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles International Conference Portfolio Grand Prize for her artwork. Not bad for a first time author. I’m looking forward to reading and enjoying more of her books in the future. – Tom Czaplinski
94 E asy
Monkey Play by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
ER CAPUCILLI, A.
Everyone enjoys watching monkeys play, especially children. In this story, we follow the monkeys as they run and tumble and get in and out of trouble in a fun-filled day. The artwork is colorful and fun as we follow the mischievous monkeys swinging on trees, stealing fruit at a market, playing dress up and dancing with friends. Children will enjoy this book because the monkeys do all of the things that energetic kids like to do. Warning: parents should not read this story to their children at bedtime. Like the monkeys, children will want to keep playing and playing. â€“ Tom Czaplinski
Easy 9 5
The Mystery of Eatum Hall by John Kelly and Cathy Tincknell
E KELLY, J.
When Horace and Glenda Pork-Fowler receive an invitation to a gourmet feast by the new owner of Eatum Hall, they eagerly accept. Glenda the goose has many questions, but her husband doesn’t. After all, he’s a pig who loves to eat. The huge, old mansion looks dark and forbidding when they arrive later that evening, but Horace isn’t worried. He wants to eat the feast. As they walk through the dimly lit halls of the mansion, they don’t notice the many pictures of wolves on the walls. They even fail to notice the large picture of Little Red Riding Hood on the stairwell wall. Eventually they enjoy the delicious gourmet food. It is served to them by robots, but they never see their mysterious host. As they swim in the pool the next day and enjoy a picnic lunch, someone is watching their every move. On their last day at the mansion, their host fails to meet them and give them their promised surprise. As they leave the mansion, the owner’s other guests arrive. They are a bunch of hungry wolves just like their host. Fortunately for Horace and Glenda, they remained blissfully ignorant of the dangers in the mansion. What makes this book so much fun to read is the illustrations that show Horace and Glenda moving about in the dark mansion. We can see the dangers that lurk in the shadows. They can’t. The pictures are dark and mysterious without being scary. When children notice these details, they’ll probably want to warn Horace and Glenda. This is a great book to read on a dark, stormy night. – Tom Czaplinski
96 E asy
Old MacDonald Had a Dragon by Ken Baker
E Baker, K.
Old MacDonald has a dragon and he loves his dragon until the farmer starts singing that famous song and the dragon starts swallowing (whole) the animals that are mentioned. The dragon swallows the cow, pig and sheep. The farmer starts thinking that maybe a dragon isn’t such a good farm animal. The line is crossed when the dragon eats Roscoe, MacDonald’s beloved hound dog. The farmer approaches the dragon to say that enough is enough, and then the dragon decides that he wants to swallow the farmer, too. So down goes the farmer. Once in the stomach of the dragon, he is reunited with all the animals and they start to sing “Old MacDonald....”; that upsets the dragon’s stomach. He belches them all out. With that, the dragon flies off for good and the animals and Old MacDonald start to sing once again. – Jessica Bingham
Olive and the Bad Mood by Tor Freeman
E Freeman, T.
I loved this book; it is so funny and, if you can’t see a bit of yourself in Olive, then you are probably taking yourself a little too seriously. This title offers teachers and parents an opportunity to share with children how their mood can affect those around them and how their attitude can add to the negative or the positive feel of their environment. Olive’s day started off no-good, terrible, horrible and just plain old rotten. Everything went downhill from the moment she tripped over her shoe laces, lost a button and fell flat on her face. You know what they say, “misery loves company,” and Olive seemed determined to share hers with all of her classmates. With an insult here and a rude comment there, Olives soon made her once happy-go-lucky friends just as miserable and cantankerous as she is. Like most of us, Olive is oblivious to the effects her bad mood has on others and is flabbergasted by how cranky her friends seem lately. Hmm…I wonder why? Can anything save the day? Is there an answer to Olive’s and her friends’ sour moods? Of course there is, because this is a children’s book where a zany and wacky solution to just about every problem you can possibly think of reveals itself at the turn of a page. If you want to discover the ending to the story, however, you will have to check this book for yourself because I just caught Olive’s bad mood and I’m not telling! (Ages 4-7) – Anna Cromwell
Easy 9 7
Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
ER LOBEL, A.
Arnold Lobel has the ability to see the world through a young child’s eyes and bring that world to life with his words and pictures. This easy reader contains five amusing stories that are sure to keep children entertained. In one of the stories, Owl looks up at a full moon and makes it his friend. When he says goodbye to the moon, he thinks it is following him home. After repeatedly telling the moon to leave, a cloud covers it. When the cloud blows away, Owl thinks the moon is watching over him like a good friend. He goes to sleep comforted by the moonlight shining through his bedroom window onto him. The house Owl lives in is warm, inviting and safe. The brown-colored drawings invite readers into his house to share his little adventures. Young children will enjoy reading these imaginative tales again and again. – Tom Czaplinski
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin, Jr.
E MARTIN, B.
The parents and babies in my lapsit storytimes love stories with lots of animals. Toddlers who are almost two years old will repeat back the animal sounds I make with great enthusiasm. This book by Bill Martin, Jr., is loaded with fun animal pictures and sounds. Beginning with the polar bear and his roars, we then encounter a lion, hippopotamus, flamingo, zebra, snake, elephant, leopard, peacock and walrus. The book ends with the zookeeper hearing the sounds of children imitating the animals. I tell this story when my theme is zoo animals. Keeping pace with Martin’s prose are the bright color illustrations by Eric Carle. That’s a potent combination. – Tom Czaplinski
98 E asy
Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins
E HOPKINS, J.
Usually I don’t like fractured tales. My motto is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I hate it when people try to improve upon a tale or add a twist to a story that is perfectly fine until they mess it up. Well, here goes another spin-off. Prairie Chicken Little is a retelling of Chicken Little and, as much as I hate to admit it, I have to say that this is one author who got it right! Hopkins’ adaptation is a bona fide hit. It is truly as good as and, in some areas better than, the original tale. In this southwestern twist on Chicken Little, Mary McBlicken hears a loud rumble followed by an even louder grumble. With no more evidence than that, she is convinced that there’s a stampede a’coming and sets off to the ranch to warn Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan. On her way she shares the dire news with several of her closest friends whose names are just as kooky as the names of the original characters. There’s Jeffrey Snog the prairie dog, Beau Grabbit the jack rabbit and June Spark the meadowlark. Just to keep it all in the family, the devilish creature out to snack on their gullible little hides is Slim Brody the sly coyote! You would think with a name like “Slim Brody, the sly coyote,” Mary and her friends would know better than to trust this character. But you can tell from the illustrations, which are hilarious, that they are a few kernels short of a whole corncob. Slim Brody soon convinces them that he knows a shortcut to the ranch, which ultimately ends up at the coyote’s den where it finally sinks in that they are about to be eaten. This is not your mother’s version of Chicken Little, no sir. These southwestern critters take no prisoners and they tear into that coyote with such a ruckus that it brings Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan running to rescue. Once the coyote is chased off, Mary McBlicken recounts her story and, in mid sentence, the rumbling and grumbling is once again heard. This time it is even louder than before! That’s no stampede. You need some grub − that’s cowboy talk for dinner. Can you guess what all that rumbling and grumbling was? If not, stop by your local library and check out this book. You’d better hurry, because once everyone hears how great this book is, I’m expecting a stampede on this title! (Ages 4-8) – Anna Cromwell
Easy 9 9
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young
E YOUNG, E.
Seven Blind Mice is a retelling of an Indian fable and one that I enjoy reading to my niece and nephew repeatedly. It’s a 1993 Caldecott Honor book that stands the test of time. The pictures are colorful and encourage young children to use their imagination. It ends with a wonderful moral of the story that proves to be a lesson for all ages. – Tammy Baggett
The Story of May by Mordeicai Gerstein
E GERSTEIN, M.
This book is a story of the months of the year with an unusual twist. The month of May is portrayed as a child with December (father) and April (mother) as her parents. Before May’s birth, there were quarrels between her parents as they had different ideas of decorating for the seasons. The rest of the months are her aunts and uncles, and August and November are her grandparents. The family decided that each month should stay in their own space, and April and December were placed at different ends of the year. When May accidentally wanders too far from home and meets up with her Aunt June, she mentions her father and arouses May’s curiosity, as she has never met him. Deciding to visit him, she wanders through the territory of each of the months seeing the seasons change until she reaches her father’s domain. He welcomes her warmly and teaches her the fun of winter sports before May grows homesick and decides to return to her mother. She promises to visit again and, as the book says, “If you feel a warm breeze on a December day, or think you hear a robin, it’s almost certain May is there.” The story is primarily told in pictures, but the seasonal information applying to each month is highly educational for children just as it was for little May. – Laurel Jones
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
E WILLEMS, M.
My co-workers in the children’s unit, as well as many of our patrons, know that I am obsessed with Mo Willems. His illustrations and stories are hilarious. That is Not a Good Idea! came out in April 2013. This book is unlike anything he has published before. The story is told in the style of an old silent movie. The colorfully illustrated pages have no words on them at all. The words to the story are located in white dialogue boxes on black pages. The characters in this story are a hungry fox and a mother goose and her chicks. The fox invites the goose to dinner and the chicks say, “That’s not a good idea,” but it’s not for the reason you think. This is a great interactive story for children of all ages. – Jessica Bingham
This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen
E KLASSEN, J.
Jon Klassen’s picture book definitely deserves the Caldecott Medal, as half of the tale is told through subtle picture changes. The story begins with an illustration of a small fish wearing a small blue hat. He precociously states to the reader, “This hat is not mine. I just stole it.” As the story continues, the little fish gives all the reasons why he will never get caught; he is very, very sure of himself. Throughout this telling however, the large illustrations reveal a somewhat different turn of events. That big fish just may be smarter than he looks! I absolutely love, love, love this book! This is Not My Hat is a great read-aloud for preschool to early elementary age children. Kids and grown-ups alike will laugh out loud as they try to predict what will happen next. – Heather Cunningham
Easy 1 0 1
The Wump World by Bill Peet
E PEET, B.
Bill Peet was a writer and illustrator who worked on many classic Walt Disney films including Cinderella and The Jungle Book. He became better known to the American public when he began writing and illustrating children’s books. In 1970 his book The Wump World was published, warning us of the dangers of the pollution we create with fossil fuels. One year later, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss was published. It also had a strong environmental message. Later it was turned into an animated film for television and, most recently, into a popular animated theatrical film. Has The Wump World been forgotten? I hope not. The Wump World is a grassy planet inhabited by the peaceful Wumps: cute, furry animals who spend each day happily munching on the plentiful grass. Suddenly they are invaded by huge, polluting spaceships filled with careless, polluting people. As they begin building roads, factories and skyscrapers, the poor Wumps hide deep inside their planet. Eventually, after ruining the beautiful planet of the Wumps, they leave. As the Wumps return to the surface of their planet, they are shocked to discover that only one small portion of the grass they remember remains. The message of this book is just as powerful now as it was back in 1970. The children who read it need to understand that they must be better caretakers of our planet. The Wumps are drawn as cute and lovable creatures. Peet’s words are as engaging as his drawings. Read this book. Future generations will thank you if you heed the message of The Wump World. – Tom Czaplinski
DVDs Amour DVD FORGEIGN FEATURE Amour is not the type of movie I generally see. It deals with dementia in old people, and well, I went through that in real life, and I have no desire to see it in the movies. Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Anne, played by Emmanuelle Riva, are retired music teachers. They lead a comfortable life well-sequestered in their Paris apartment. One day Anne has a stroke and is left severely debilitated. Over an unbearable period of time she declines and lingers. Unable to bear watching her suffer, Georges must make a decision. That’s really all I can tell you without spoiling it, even though you can probably figure out what happens from just that tidbit. The plot really isn’t the point here. Michael Haenke, the director and screenwriter, is trying to convey the complex web of emotions that accompany watching a loved one decline. And he succeeds, damn him! Riva has the acclaim and nominations for her performance as Anne, and she deserves all of it. Her portrait of a smart, proud, independent woman falling into dementia is devastating. But this is really Georges’ story, and Trintignant gives the best performance in the film. He plays a man who keeps his emotions hidden, but the actor communicates that this man indeed has very strong feelings. He doesn’t get visibly scared when he realizes that something is wrong, and he doesn’t have a scene where he boils over in anger and resentment. But all that stuff is in the subtlest expressions in his face. Haenke’s direction also emphasizes these emotions. There are long, static shots with dialog off-screen. Conversations are deliberate and slow, creating a great deal of frustration in the viewer, which was very familiar to me. In these
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situations, there is nothing you want so much as change. At first there’s hope; you want her to get better. And then when it becomes apparent that there is no hope, you just want the end to hurry up and get here. Except you’re afraid to tell people that or maybe even admit it to yourself. You tell yourself that she wouldn’t want to live this way, but deep down you wonder if you’re being selfish to want to be rid of these responsibilities. And that nagging guilt doesn’t end when the loved one dies. It takes…well, I’ll have to let you know. I can’t say I loved Amour, or even liked it much. It is an intense experience. I do, however, recognize that it is well made and perhaps even brilliant. – Chuck Ebert
Anna Karenina DVD FEATURE ANNA It is often difficult for modern folk to read literature from another era. There are the obvious differences in language and style that make works like Anna Karenina or the plays of Shakespeare tough going, but there are also differences in attitudes. It is offensive when you read an old book that uses stereotyped portrayals of women or ethnic groups, and yet you can hardly expect a writer to rise above the prevailing attitudes of his or her time. But even if you take that into account, it detracts from the work, moving it from a living, breathing, artistic experience to an artifact of another age, something to be studied, not to be moved by and enjoyed. The best writers, however, do transcend their eras, at least in part. Shylock suffers at the end of The Merchant of Venice, as Elizabethan conventions say he must, but he has an opportunity to state his case and to garner sympathy from the audience. He is a flawed character but he is allowed to have human reasons for those flaws. So it is with Anna Karenina. From what I read, it was written at a time of great social upheaval in Russia. Western ways were seeping in, and there was bitter conflict between the old conservative and authoritarian way of doing things and new democratic ideas. Tolstoy was definitely on the progressive side of things, and he presents his tale of adultery and the destruction of a family, not as a moral lesson to keep women in their place, but as a tragedy. Like all tragic heroes, Anna has her flaws. She is selfish, impetuous and stubborn. And yet she is also noble, smart and tasteful.
Keira Knightly plays the title character, Anna, a passionate woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage to the cold and distant Karenin, a high ranking civil servant, played by Jude Law. Anna meets dashing army officer Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and they have a years-long affair. Karenin has no moral or emotional objection to the arrangement, all he wants is for Anna to keep up appearances. He doesn’t want scandal. To be fair, some of this is out of concern for her. The law would not have allowed her to remarry after a divorce, and of course, she would have been shut off from society and separated from her children. But Anna, once she discovers that her husband’s only objection to the affair is out of concern for their reputations, recognizes the passionless state of her marriage and escalates her relationship with Vronsky. The Director, Joe Wright, who has completed two previous literary adaptations with Keira Knightly, introduced highly theatrical elements into the film. It opens in a theatre and most of the transitions between the scenes take place there. He also did innovative things with the soundtrack and the music, showing musicians walking around on screen or having clerks stamping forms in the same rhythm as the music. The thematic reasons for these elements are not readily apparent to me. Is it a Brechtian thing meant to distance us from the emotional impact of the story, so we can concentrate on the intellectual aspects? Or is it merely a way to speed up the transitions so he can shoehorn in as much of Tolstoy’s plot as humanly possible? It’s a pretty film, and some of the transitions do add an amount of energy to the film that would not have been conveyed by a slow cross fade. However, Anna Karenina is always celebrated as one of the groundbreaking works of literary realism; it has no connection to theatre or anything in the least bit fanciful. There is no resonance to introducing these elements. Anna Karenina is a pretty film, well shot and creatively lit, but this puzzling artifice separates us from some very good performances. Keira Knightly goes from the consummate wife of a public figure to a tearful, suicidal harridan. Her face, which can sometimes be vacant, is fully inhabited with emotion at all times. The only problem is that the script does not adequately document her descent; we’re not along for most of the ride so we’re not really invested. Jude Law stands out as Karenin. He doesn’t come across as cruel, just cold. You even have a little sympathy for him when he asks, “What have I done to deserve this?” Matthew Macfayden plays Stiva, Anna’s philandering brother, with a winning bonhomie that makes you believe that people are always willing to forgive him. I thought Aaron Taylor-Johnson lacked the necessary gravitas to play Vronsky. You really wonder what she sees in him.
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Anna Karenina is the story of a woman who realizes that her husband doesn’t really love her and moves on to another relationship. Today, that would be the plot of a romantic comedy. Before Tolstoy, it would have been a morality tale of the inherent evilness of women. In the hands of one of history’s greatest novelists, it became a tragic indictment of his society’s mores, not to mention a difficult, if not impossible, novel to adapt into a movie. – Chuck Ebert
Flight DVD FEATURE FLIG Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington creates a fully-fledged bad guy character that you still want to root for in Flight. Whip Whitaker is a phenomenally talented and experienced commercial airline pilot by trade. He is also an addict – alcohol, drugs, sex – and a divorced father. Whip reports to work hungover one day with drugs and alcohol still in his system. His copilot, an evangelical Christian, takes note of his mood and is concerned about his ability to pilot the plane. When there is an engine failure, Whip is able to miraculously crash land, losing only six lives in the process. In the hospital, Whip visits the copilot, who wonders aloud if he could have saved everyone had he been sober. In Flight, Washington delivers another fine performance as a man at war with his own conscience. – Lisa L. Dendy
The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney DVD 910.41 INCR He became one of the first black men to sail solo around the world. His 22-month-long voyage covered 27,000 miles and took him around the globe. Captain Bill Pinkney, the first African American to sail around the world alone. During his journey at sea he kept in touch via state-of-the-art technology with students in Boston and Chicago, teaching them about math and geography and teaching them to reach for their dreams. Upon his return from sea, Bill Pinkney was recognized by President George Bush. – Willo Jackson
The Intouchables DVD FOREIGN FEATURE INTO On the surface, Driss is brash, rude, arrogant and lazy. He’s also untrustworthy. Driss enters the household of wealthy paraplegic Philippe ostensibly seeking the job of caregiver, but in reality he only wants Philippe to sign his social security form to “prove” he’s job hunting and therefore eligible for benefits. Philippe has another idea, however. He challenges Driss to actually take the livein job for one month. Fresh out of prison, and with nowhere else to go, Driss accepts. So begins an unlikely friendship between two men who seem very different, but who have in common an irreverent, smart and funny disposition. Unlike many of Philippe’s previous caregivers, Driss doesn’t coddle him or ignore him, and Philippe never treats Driss as anything but an equal, so the two grudgingly grow in respect for each other. As the relationship builds, the new friends end up changing each other for the better. This uplifting odd couple tale is a true story. It’s also in French with English subtitles, but you will forget about those subtitles entirely by the second or third scene as you become engrossed in this delightful story. – Gina Rozier
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The Last Stand DVD FEATURE LAST The Last Stand is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies after being governor of California. This is a B- movie, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. You go in, you enjoy yourself for an hour and a half and then you forget about it. The weightiest question that lingers in your mind afterward is, “Are there really cornfields in Arizona?” It turns out that there are. But it almost would have been better if there weren’t. It would have added to the goofy dumbness of this film. Arnold plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of Sommerton Junction, a sleepy border town. He’s an ex-narcotics cop from Los Angeles who gave it up after a particularly bloody firefight. He gets word from the FBI that Gabriel Cortez, a brutal drug lord, has escaped from his captors and is headed to Sommerton Junction to cross the border. Ray and his three-man force prepare to stop him. The Last Stand is a big, dumb movie filled with one improbable set piece after another, climaxing in the aforementioned cornfield. The director is Jeewoon Kim, who comes from the hyperactive world of Korean cinema, so the violence in the film is amped up to the nth degree. The villains are so vile you can’t wait until they get what’s coming to them. For what it is, it’s well done. Who cares about the acting? It’s good enough. The Last Stand is the ultimate guilty pleasure. – Chuck Ebert
Les Misérables DVD FEATURE LESM I was skeptical about this film version of the Cameron Mackintosh musical. I didn’t want to see it. I avoided it. Why? Because I have seen the stage production of “Les Mis” and listened to the Broadway cast album so many times that I didn’t want to spoil “my” version of the musical. Russell Crowe as Javert? Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Nope and nope. Then I checked out the DVD from the library. If I hated it, at least I didn’t pay to see it. The verdict? I would have paid to see it…I should have paid to see it in the theater. This version took everything I love about the stage production – all the songs, characters, and story lines – and dressed them up in a way that only a big-budget Hollywood film can while staying true to the original production. (There was one new song written specifically for the movie which was unnecessary). While Russell Crowe wasn’t the greatest Javert, he more than held his own with Hugh Jackman, who nailed Jean Valjean. And, of course, Anne Hathaway was wonderful as Fantine. I appreciated that director Tom Hooper made the actors actually sing on camera instead of simply lip syncing to a pre-recorded performance. It made the characters and action seem more real to me. Bottom line: If you loved the stage musical, you’ll love the movie version too. – Matthew Clobridge
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Les Misérables DVD FEATURE LESM The musical Les Misérables has had a long journey to the silver screen. Based on the Victor Hugo novel of crime and redemption in 19th century France, it was a huge international hit on stage during the 80’s. There have been filmed concerts, soundtrack albums and several non-musical adaptations, but nobody ever tried to adapt the musical itself, until Tom Hooper decided to take a crack at it. He had the wisdom to cast most of the roles with people who can actually sing. Hugh Jackman takes the lead role of Jean Valjean. Anne Hathaway is Fantine. Both of them have pretty good voices and are big enough stars to open a film with big box office numbers. Even Russell Crowe, who is cast as Javert, has sung in a rock band for a number of years and can at least get in the neighborhood of the proper key. Most of the other roles are taken by Broadway and West End veterans. Hooper also decided to record the vocals on set with microphones set up close to the actors. The mics were then removed from the picture using CGI. It seems to have worked, but I really didn’t notice any difference in the quality of the performances between this picture and a musical that was done in the traditional way of recording the soundtrack ahead of time and lip-syncing on the set. Plus Hooper’s method takes away the possibility of hiring a real singer to dub in the songs of an actor who can’t do it. Les Misérables is a big sprawling nineteenth century novel that spans decades of the characters’ lives. It has an episodic structure that doesn’t usually translate well into film. In this case, however, Hooper has borrowed the structure of the musical and that works pretty well. At first, the pace seems a little hurried but once you get used to the rhythm, you begin to lose yourself in the story. Eventually over two and a half hours, you care very deeply about the characters. The sets and costumes are very realistic, down to the grime of the city streets. This contrasts nicely with the unrealism of most of the dialog being sung. The lighting is realistic as well.
The performances are universally fine. Jackman carries the film and does a great job as a man struggling to win and then keep redemption, but not always knowing how. Anne Hathaway’ Fantine is a tragic figure and she never fails to evoke empathy. Russell Crowe’s Javert is unyielding and righteous, utterly convinced of the efficacy of the law. All of them occasionally hit sour notes in their songs, especially Crowe, but in general they do a pretty good job with the singing. Likewise, the musical theater vets do a great job translating their performances to the screen. Samantha Barks rips your heart out as the lovelorn Eponine. And Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, is tremendous as a young man torn by idealism and love. It’s easy to see why it took so long to put Les Misérables on the screen. It is a musical of epic scale, with a huge cast and many locations, dealing with momentous events. Extraordinary talent is required to do it right. And they succeeded. – Chuck Ebert
Lincoln DVD FEATURE LINC There are people who make history and then there are people like Lincoln, figures who are able to rise above the assumptions and prejudices of their times to advance history in a completely unseen direction. I would put Lincoln in the same category as Alexander the Great, Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon and a maybe a handful of others who became not just historical figures, but icons that are venerated throughout the ages. He and George Washington are probably the only two such figures in American history. My guess is that Lincoln is the most biographied president in history. And yet, for those of us who don’t study him, it is hard to think of him as a person. We’re too used to seeing him on money or as that huge statue in Washington. He pops up in movies and on TV all the time in projects ranging from the silly to the solemn. Usually he is depicted as a font of gentle wisdom. What was he really like? Is it wise for us to want to peek behind the machinery of this particular American myth and find that one of our greatest heroes has flaws like anybody else? Steven Spielberg and his screenwriter Tony Kushner do a pretty good job of depicting the complicated machinations surrounding the passage
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of the thirteenth amendment in an understandable way. But their main accomplishment is in making Lincoln the icon into Lincoln the man. Daniel Day Lewis plays Lincoln as a gangly figure, whose clothes never quite fit and whose hair is never combed. And yet he always has a funny story or an inspiring metaphor. This man is a born leader, genuinely interested in the people around him. He rarely gets angry, but you do not want to disappoint him. He is also somewhat aware of his place in history and the price it costs him personally. People love him and are in awe of him and that separates him from others. The performances are great all around. Sally Field plays Mary Todd Lincoln, his grieving, mentally unstable wife. David Strathairn turns in an exemplary performance as Lincoln’s trusted aid William H. Seward, who is willing to tell the president things he doesn’t want to hear. And Tommy Lee Jones is great as fanatical abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, who usually employs his wit to belittle his opposition, but who must control himself to get the amendment passed. Lincoln is a pretty film with great cinematography and costumes. This is an era before central heating is in widespread use, so everybody, including the president, is wrapped in shawls and housecoats. The interiors are dark at night because the only illumination is candlelight. It looks very realistic. As a genre, political films can be tricky. It is a story, after all, that is moved along almost solely by dialog. This can be tedious if you don’t have the right actors and a great script. But the story is important too, and there are few that are more inspiring than this one. This is a story of a politician who when faced with the choice of doing the righteous thing and the expedient one, chose the righteous. And whenever that happens the angels weep with joy. – Chuck Ebert
Senna DVD B SENNA, A. Formula One is not a huge sport in this country. In Brazil, F1 is huge and has been for decades. This documentary follows the career of legendary Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna, his rise through the ranks of F1, his rivalry with French driver Alain Prost and his tragic death in 1994. This film goes behind the scenes to take a look at Senna’s personal life and his disputes with the reigning powers in F1. Still considered by many to be the greatest motorracing driver of all time, three-time world champion Senna will inspire and amaze you. – Lisa L. Dendy
Silver Linings Playbook DVD FEATURE SILV Pat Solitano, played by Bradley Cooper, found his wife in the shower with another man and had something of a psychotic break. That was eight months before The Silver Linings Playbook starts. In the beginning of the movie he is getting out of the psychiatric hospital, where a plea bargain landed him, intent on moving on with his life without the use of meds. He also wants to win his wife back. He moves in with his parents, Pat Sr., played by Robert DeNiro, and Dolores, played by Jackie Weaver. Eventually he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has psychiatric problems of her own. The scene where they talk about the various side effects of the medications they’ve taken is hilarious. Can two dysfunctional people make a go of it? Silver Linings Playbook is a smart and unsentimental romantic comedy. The writer and director David O. Russell is known for more edgy material like Three Kings and Spanking the Monkey, where the tone is a lot darker. I wouldn’t have guessed that he could make a film as uplifting as this. That being said, you should know that we’re a long way from a Kate Hudson or Sandra Bullock formula rom com. One of the things I worry about in a project like this is the treatment of the psychotic main characters. Do they become merely the butt of crazy people jokes? The answer here is no. They are people, more vulnerable than most, but they are fully characterized. For instance, it is made clear that Pat’s behavior improves when he relents and takes his meds. The easy cliché would have been for him to prove he can make it without them, but he’s just not ready for that. The plot is advanced by Pat and Tiffany navigating the maze of each other’s quirks and neuroses, but they are shown to have strength and dignity. It is a very strong script by the director and Matthew Quick. I have always put Bradley Cooper in the more good-looking than talented category, but he really nails this part. He captures the person beneath the bipolarity symptoms. It was a surprise to me. Ryan Gosling could not have done a better job. Jennifer Lawrence turns in a similar performance. She breathes life into her grieving, damaged character. Robert De Niro’s roles have been more slumming than not these days, and it’s good to see him play a character that challenges
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him even a little. Pat Sr. is an Eagles-obsessed man with anger issues of his own. He can’t go to the games anymore because they’ve banned him from the stadium for fighting. Jackie Weaver turns in a good performance as his longtime wife who learned long ago to live with her husband’s obsessions and has learned how to pick her fights. There are so many bad rom coms, and they always do such great box office because films are so rarely made for women. It’s a shame that Silver Linings Playbook is relegated to the art house market. It’s a film men and women will enjoy which makes it a perfect date movie and well worth seeking out. – Chuck Ebert
Wreck-It Ralph DVD FEATURE WREC Wreck-It Ralph is a highly entertaining story that is sure to please. It is a fun adventure in the life of a video game character who is a bad guy who wants a new image by becoming a good guy, only to find out that accepting himself makes him great. You will fall in love with Ralph! – Jovanna Foreman
CDs Books First Family: Abigail and John by Joseph J. Ellis
BK CD B ADAMS, J.
This really is a story of a marriage rather than the story of a Founding Father or early-American politics, though those can’t be left out because it is about John Adams. The relationship of John and Abigail is the central story of this book; the rest (politics and family problems, etc.) is mentioned as a side note. As a story of a marriage, this was lovely. Abigail and John Adams were true love at its best, weathering hard times, separations, family issues, mood swings and more, while still loving and supporting each other. The reader was a lovely choice for the book. I felt like she put a lot of personality into the words and really made the letters, written in an oldfashioned and self-conscious manner, come alive. I often notice repetitions on audio more than when reading and this was true of this book, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the experience. I cried at the end, both at the death of Abigail and at the death of John. Two lives, well lived. – Jennifer Lohmann
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Seriously...I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
BK CD B DEGENERES, E.
Why not laugh out loud while you’re driving?! Don’t let the stress of traffic get to you. Take a dose of Ellen DeGeneres, because laughter is the best medicine. While this is available as a downloadable or regular audio book or as a book, I chose the audio version because it gives the true flavor and intonations of all of Ellen’s humorous comments on everyday life. She’s a hoot! – Susan Wright
Music The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe
How do you describe an entity as elusive as Janelle Monáe? Is it enough to say she thinks like Philip K. Dick, sings like Prince and dances like Michael Jackson (or possibly James Brown)? That, like Madonna or David Bowie, she created and redefines her image as she goes along? That she is originally from Kansas and compares herself to Dorothy, or that she has an alterego named Cindi Mayweather who is an android from the future? Her lyrics are thoughtprovoking, her voice is beautiful, and her music is by turns funky, jazzy and new wave poppy. If you’re looking for smart music full of cultural references and dance-driven hooks, The ArchAndroid may be for you. – Lisa L. Dendy
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Joanne Abel Marketing and Development ...........................14, 19, 25, 34, 36, 37, 38, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49, 73, 92 Claudia Aleman de Toomes Adult Services, Main Library....................................................................................................23, 64 Tammy Baggett Director............................................................................................................................. 36, 51, 99 Lynne Barnette Manager, Southwest Regional Library.............................................................................................. 9 Jessica Bingham Children's Services, Main Library................. 12, 43, 54, 57, 63, 66, 71, 73, 81, 83, 84, 92, 96, 100 Archie Burke Adult Services, East Regional Library....................................................................................... 56, 69 Hitoko Burke Marketing and Development ......................................................................................................... 42 Matthew Clobridge Marketing and Development ................................................................................................ 32, 108 Anna Cromwell Children's Services, Main Library..........................................................................76, 88, 89, 96, 98 Carter B. Cue Adult Services, Stanford L. Warren Library .............................................................44, 47, 49, 50, 52 Heather Cunningham Teen Services, Stanford L. Warren Library................................................ 65, 68, 69, 72, 75, 77, 100 Tom Czaplinski Children's Services, Main Library...................................................... 78, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 97, 101 Myrtle Darden Manager, Stanford L. Warren Library ............................................................................................. 51 Lisa L. Dendy Technical Services .............................................................. 8, 12, 21, 24, 46, 64, 80, 105, 111, 115 Lauren Doll Children's Services, South Regional Library................................................................................... 58 Chuck Ebert Technical Services............................................................................... 103, 105, 107, 110, 111, 113 Lakesia Farmer Administration ............................................................................................................ 10, 14, 18, 20 Jovanna Foreman Bookmobile .......................................................................................................................... 84, 113 Dionne Greenlee Marketing and Development ......................................................................................................... 41 Michelle Hall Administration .............................................................................................................................. 48 Anita Hasty-Speed Manager, East Regional Library ............................................................................................... 19, 45
Donna Hausmann Technical Services................................................................................................................... 17, 26 Terry B. Hill Deputy Director ............................................................................................................................. 56 Patrick Holt North Carolina Collection, Main Library............................................................................. 60, 61, 62 Amber Huston Circulation, Main Library .........................................................................................................30, 66 Willo Jackson Circulation, North Regional Library.................................................................................. 10, 45, 105 Christopher Johnson Circulation, South Regional Library.......................................................................................... 67, 70 Derrian Jones Outreach Services ......................................................................................................................... 29 Laurel Jones Children's Services, Main Library ....................................................... 59, 74, 79, 82, 83, 85, 87, 99 Janet Levy Youth Services .............................................................................................................................. 33 Jennifer Lohmann Adult Services, Southwest Regional Library ....................................... 16, 21, 27, 28, 35, 39, 53, 114 Anita Robinson Administration ........................................................................................................................ 19, 54 Gina Rozier Marketing and Development .................................................................................................40, 106 Jennifer Scott Marketing and Development ................................................................................. 11, 33, 54, 61, 92 Jan Seabock Technical Services......................................................................................................................... 74 Alice Sharpe Marketing and Development ......................................................................................................... 25 Roseanne Smith Bookmobile ...................................................................................................................... 15, 17, 93 Joyce Sykes Board of Trustees ................................................................................................. 13, 22, 26, 75, 86 Jill Wagy Technology Management ...................................................................................... 15, 23, 24, 37, 43 Matthew Wood Technology Management ........................................................................................................ 31, 60 Susan Wright Manager, North Regional Library ........................................................................................... 11, 115
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Durham County Library's annual staff reading picks.