Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Sometimes human places create inhuman monsters"

Quoting the incomparable Stephen King, and for those of you who like a little thrill, here's our summer reading list of our favorite monster books.  These are guaranteed to make your pulse quicken and have you holding your breath until the very last page.  For a thrill, we recommend any of these titles.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Yes, seriously.  This would not be a real monster list if we did not start with this one.
It by Stephen King
Monster by Frank Peretti - this noted Christian author will have you up late at night desperate to finish this book.  He will also leave you questioning what you know, what you think you know, and what is real or just your fear.  And if you like this one, equally terrifying and fantastic to read is Peretti's The Oath.
World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war by Max Brooks
I am Legend by Steven Niles - The world's population has all but been extinct by a vampire virus.  Only one man has survived.  Faced with keeping himself alive, he battles vampires, the question of what caused the epidemic, and the question of what to do next pulls readers from page to page in an intellectual and heart-racing thriller.
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells - still timeless in its perfect ability to truly capture fear in the heart of every audience with the unknown, Wells spins and weave a tale of the monster only your own mind can create.  Without details or description, he manages to keep you on the edge of your seat page after page in this all too realistic scenario of an alien invasion.

The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice
Watchers by Dean Koontz
The Historian  by Elizabeth Kostova - Yes, this one is a vampire book, but it is so very much more.  After finding a mysterious book in her late father's library, a young woman finds herself on a journey to discover the truth behind what happened to her parents...a journey that leads her through historical archives and libraries to the truth behind the legend of Dracula...a journey both fascinating and terrifying.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The beauty of the everyday

There's the inescapable compulsion to read books that pull us out of our lives, that allow us to travel to places and times new and exciting, to take us on journeys we could never imagine going on, to experience something new.  And yet, so many books aren't about the unknown.  Instead, they capture glimpses of ordinary lives...moments that allow us, the readers, to see as beautiful even extraordinary.  And yet those moments are quite normal and ordinary. These writers have transposed on the page the lives of their characters, people like you or I, but do so in a way that allows us to see the beauty and amazing light that can be found in that ordinary moment, in the everyday of life.  Try out any of these summer reading picks.  They are guaranteed to lift you out of your world, allow you to escape into another, and will leave you with a better appreciation and a new perspective on your own.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler - This book is about the connections and strengths that we can find in ordinary people, even those who are nothing like us.  Following the tragic albeit funny life of Macon Leary, a man who makes a living writing for travel magazines but oddly despises traveling, the charm of this novel happens when he meets the crazy, eccentric Muriel.  She is a dog trainer and more than a little odd, but you will fall in love with the way that she turns Macon's life upside down and somehow helps him to find himself in the process.

Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg - If you haven't read Elizabeth Berg yet, this is a fabulous book to start with.Okay, really, any of her novels are fabulous.  Range of Motion is about a young man and his wife.  He is in a coma after a sudden accident with the world doubting that he will recover.  She is the only one who seems to still hope and believe in his recovery.  This is a truly beautiful and moving look at remembering, healing, loving, and finding joy or even peace in the small moments of everyday.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen - Yes, another of our favorite authors who writes remarkable and compelling stories.  Mary Beth is a mother, a wife, keeper of a home, and content with the carefully built life that she has...until one act of violence rocks her entire world to the core.  You will gasp aloud, hold your breath from one moment to the next, and find yourself loving the moments in both her life and yours.  Guaranteed this one you will like.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - For the more adventurous at heart, this novel is one you'll not want to miss.  Scientist Dr. Marina Singh has to go to the Amazon rainforest to find her friend and mentor who has disappeared.  She was working on the development of a new drug that wold be greatly important to today's world.  Marina is placed greatly out of her comfort zone as she traverses the beauties and the dangers of the forest.  While reading this, you will find the yourself enthralled with the majestic backdrop of the story.  But there's so much more to this story.  It is also about science...about the hope of what science can do and the costs that factor into any discovery.  Simply breathtaking to read.

Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah - More than anything, this novel is about choices.  Beginning with the choice of two young girls who are as unlike each other as they are in social standing but choose to become friends.  As their lives go from one choice to the next, through college, career, relationships, and the consequences that come with each, these two friends will see each other through learning as much from their friendship as they do from their mistakes.  I have to say, that I picked up a Kristen Hannah novel on a whim and found that every page held me and surprised me with the tenderness and vulnerability in her characters.  Every novel of hers has held true to that since.

These ladies all hold unmitigated writing styles and any of their novels or non-fiction works are not only well worth the read but will keep you wanting more.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Roasted, fresh herbs, sweet creams, rich flavors

For comfort, to sustain, to indulge, or just because it is delicious, we all have a weak spot for exceptional food.  This list includes some titles that will feed your taste buds and your reading bug at the same time.  They are as mouthwatering as they are entertaining.

How to cook a tart by Nina Killham - "Cookbook author Jasmine March's life is like a perfect...her husband, Daniel, has taken up with one of his Zone-dieting drama students; Careme, her daughter, is bent on starving herself to death; and Jasmine's fellow foodies have had just about enough of her astronomically caloric recipes. To make matters worse, her publisher is threatening to cancel her contract. And then there's the small matter of the dead body she finds one morning on her kitchen floor." (from  If you aren't tempted yet...just read the first chapter and you'll be hooked.

Julie & Julia: my year of cooking dangerously by Julie Powell -full of charm, mishaps, determination, a little romance, and a lot of more than one variety...

Delancey: a man, a woman, a restaurant, a marriage by Molly Wizenberg -  "When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, she vowed always to support him, to work with him to make their hopes and dreams real. She evinced enthusiasm about Brandon's enthusiasms: building a violin, building a boat, and opening an ice cream store--none of which came to pass. So when Brandon started making plans to open a pizza restaurant, Molly felt sure that the restaurant would join the list of Brandon's abandoned projects. When she finally realized that Delancey really was going to happen, that Brandon was going to change all of her assumptions about what their married life would be like, it was too late. She faced the first crisis in their young marriage. Opening a restaurant is not like hosting a dinner party every night. Molly and Brandon's budget was small, and the tasks at hand were often overhwelming. They had to find a space they could afford, gut renovate it themselves, find second-hand furniture and equipment, build what furniture they couldn't find, buy and install a wood-burning oven, pass health inspections, hire staff, and establish a billing and payroll system. They lost a financial partner. Their cook disappeared the day they opened. Still, their restaurant was a success, and Molly managed to convince herself that she was happy in their new life. Until Halloween night, when she was forced to admit she could no longer pretend. While Delancey is a funny and frank look at behind-the-scenes restaurant life, it is also a bravely honest and moving portrait of a tender young marriage and two partners who had to find out how to let each other go in order to come together" (from publisher)

Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship with recipes by Amanda Hesser - Ms. Hesser is fantastic!  She is today's woman.  A lady who likes the good things in life, wants to catch a man, and was raised to believe that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  After meeting a man who may just be Mr. Right at a coffee shop, Amanda undergoes a ridiculously hilarious venture into the world of cooking complete with every mistake possible and learning a lot about herself in the process.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes - "Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people. In Under the Tuscan Sun, she brings the lyrical voice of a poet, the eye of a seasoned traveler, and the discerning palate of a cook and food writer to invite readers to explore the pleasures of Italian life and to feast at her table" (from publisher)

The New Great American Writer's Cookbook - a cookbook of recipes and anecdotes by your favorite literary giants including Patricia Cornwell, Anna Quindlen, Sandra Brown, Fannie Flagg, Ann Patchett...and the list goes on.  Light.  Fun.  Delicious.

Chocolat by Joann Harris - though this book doesn't have the recipes, it is a beautiful romance and story of personal exploration that is destined to leave your mouth watering and your heart full.

And after you read one of these, you'll want to stop by our cook book section and check out at least one of the scrumptious cookbooks we have abounding in delicious recipes for every taste, ethnicity, diet, and desire.  Seriously, we do have the Chocolate & Coffee cookbook.  Imagine what else you'll find on our shelves.

Science, medical miracles, the power of technology, and Johnny Depp.

It’s Final’s Week and to make it even better, there’s one more opportunity for you to join in and watch a great free movie during our summer film series.  If you haven’t made it yet, this is definitely your week to come, relax, watch a great movie, and start your summer break off right. 
The final film for this summer is jam-packed with Hollywood style action, suspense, and thrills.  Not to mention, it’s Johnny Depp.  Need I say more…okay, I will.  We will be watching the 2014 film, Transcendence.  The story is not necessarily a new one.  The idea of a computer generated artificial intelligence (A.I.) has fascinated writers and audiences alike beginning with Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: a Space Odyssey.  This film, however, moves beyond the traditional story to the concept of A.I. to that of what if.   Johnny Depp’s character, Dr. Will Caster asks the question, can a live person be uploaded into a computer, the technology taking on the human’s memories, emotions, life.  To quote Depp’s character in the film:
For 130,000 years, our capacity to reason has remained unchanged. The combined intellect of the neuroscientists, mathematicians and... hackers... in this auditorium pales in comparison to the most basic A.I. Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology. And in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world. So imagine such an entity with a full range of human emotion. Even self-awareness.
As if that wasn’t an intriguing enough…this film blends wonderfully the excitement, beautiful scenes, and intensity that we expect from a Hollywood blockbuster with some of the strongest and most compelling ethical issues of today.  Delving into science’s greatest potential to cure disease and heal the broken, audiences are treated to the magnificent potential for what stem cell research and nanotechnology can truly do while also seeing the cost.  Director Wally Pfister, in his directorial debut, artfully blends the philosophical and ethical questions of this age in medicine, science, and technology, with a story of true love that will have you hanging on until the very last moment.  You will find that this is not a sci-fi thriller, but actually a reality that we are facing today.  It is exciting, relevant, important, and highly entertaining with great performances by Depp alongside Morgan Freeman, Cilian Murphy, and Paul Bettany.

Come join us for the last week of the summer series.  There will be chocolate and, of course, licorice as our treat to you.

Okay, and  because I can't help it...a little bit of movie trivia for you.  Having worked under Christopher Nolan for several films, Wally Pfister steps out on his own in making a film about the power of technology and the question of the necessity and impact of human dependence on technology.  What would the world look like without the internet, cell phones, tech-enhanced cars, etc.  Making a statement and remaining true to his craft, Pfister refused to use any digital film or digital cameras in the filming of this movie.  He chose instead to shoot only on 35mm or anamorphic film stock and edited all the effects photochemically rather than digitally.  After you've seen this movie, the skill and incredible artistry in making the special effects that are in the film happen and be so realistic, you will be awed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

All who wander are not lost

To channel the incomparable J.R.R. Tolkein, the desire for travel and adventure, the curiosity and wonder of the unknown is a timeless pursuit.  We all get excited about the idea of experiencing and exploring places unknown.  For some, it's about the adventures that you don't want to take but want to share in the experience.  For others, it's about the inspiration for journeys you will go on someday.  And for some of you, it's about the adventure you are ready to dive into tomorrow.  These books are wonderful journeys of exploration and adventures...some big, some small, but all well worth taking.  Enjoy.

The Walls of Dehli by Uday Prakash - this summer's hot new release will truly give you an adventure and the sensation that anything is possible.  "A street sweeper discovers a cache of black market money and escapes to see the Taj Mahal with his underage mistress; an Untouchable races to reclaim his life that’s been stolen by an upper-caste identity thief; a slum baby’s head gets bigger and bigger as he gets smarter and smarter, while his family tries to find a cure. One of India’s most original and audacious writers, Uday Prakash, weaves three tales of living and surviving in today’s globalized India. In his stories, Prakash portrays realities about caste and class with an authenticity absent in most English-language fiction about South Asia. Sharply political but free of heavy handedness." (from Amazon)

The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews - having lost his job and will to live, this hero of this novel is given a gift, the ability to travel through time and gather wisdom for the future.  In his visits to historical figures and places, he comes up with the seven fundamental truths to life.  This is a short and quick read but will leave you feeling like you've learned a great secret in life, with something to hold onto, with something to share.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - from today's premiere travel writer, this book is his adventure hiking one of the most notorious trails in North America, the Appalacian Trail.  You will laugh out loud.  You will be awed by his bravery and gumption.  And at the end, you may very well find that you have some of your own.  If this leaves you wanting more like we are sure it will, check out some of Bryson's other books such as Neither here nor there: travels in Europe or The Lost Continent: travels in small town America.

My Life in France by Julia Child - Funny.  Witty.  A true adventure told in the way only an outspoken, brash, American woman who has just moved to France with her determination to conquer the culture and the cooking can.  It's a love story.  It's a travel story.  It's a food story.  It's a life story guaranteed to make you smile.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck - this is the one on our list that we feel everyone should read at some point or three during their life.  Steinbeck's classic prose is at its best in this true life tale of his travels.  You will want to take this one home and perhaps come back again for it later.

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah - Tahir Shah moves his family from England to Morocco where he has bought an old though grand estate which was meant to satisfy his "delusions of grandeur" when he restores it to an incredible palace.  The customs, pests, food, culture, and crazy experiences his wife, two kids, and himself are subjected to as they work on their new "home" are astounding and hilarious at the same time.  You will enjoy every moment of this adventure.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

For the guys...

And since we had a post for the ladies, this summer reading list is just for the boys.

The Dangerous Book for Boys - Pretty sure that the title says it all, but in case you need more in this book you will find chapters like How to Play Stickball, The Rules of Soccer, Fishing, Famous Battles, Extraordinary Stories, Girls, First Aid, and much more.  Regardless of your age, this is a fun read.

Jon Krakauer - with is incredible books on journeys and life adventures, you are guaranteed to get lost in whichever you choose.  We particularly recommend Into Thin Air  and Into the Wild.

Sahara by Clive Cussler - Alright, so I know this is a violation of the summer reading rules to have a series book included.  However, any Dirk Pitt novel by Cussler can be picked up, read, relished, and there does not have to be any order followed.  These are like reading James Bond...complete with the right amount of accurate history, adventure, villains, comedy, and of course a beautiful woman.  And if you are of the more serious reading persuasion, his true life adventures are chronicled in the Numa Files books which are non-fiction and also fantastically satisfying reads.

Dick Francis - We could not pick one of his books as they are all good.  Hot Money is a great one to start with but really and truly, every Dick Francis is a light and seriously entertaining bit of mystery, action, and adventure.  

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan - a fascinating collection of Sullivan's essays on music greats, national catastrophes, writers, sporting events...a witty and raw view of the world today, and perhaps a perspective that is entirely new.
 And for the sports enthusiasts...stay tuned.  We have a whole page on that coming soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's all about the ladies

Last week, as I was exploring what made up a good summer read, I came across some phrases and some genres that were fun. 

And, because I'm a librarian and librarians like to categorize and organize things, I looked up some names that I thought you'd find interesting. Starting with the Beach Read.  This category of books is pretty undefined.  It simply means a book you'd throw in your beach bag with the aim of contentedly whiling away the hours laying in the sun, on a lounge chair, hammock, or towel. It really could be any kind of book.  For today, I'm going to say beach reads are all about the ladies.
It's about escaping a little bit, but more than that, it's about the camaraderie that comes from the know the kind...that only happens with honesty and shared experience.  There is an incredible thing that happens when women get together and form the kind of friendships I'm talking about here.  So today's reads focus on women, stories about women, stories by women, stories for women.  And our favorite categories too.

Chick Lit: ummm..yes, there is such a thing as Chick Lit.  It's actually an official Library of Congress heading, which means you can type it into a subject search in the library catalog and find books that meet this criteria.  What's chick lit?  Well, it's the written equivalent of what many of you know as a chick flick.  Taken straight from the Library of Congress' description, it is, "white girls in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss ... Details about race and class are almost always absent, except ... for the protagonist’s relentless pursuit of money, a makeover, and Mr. Right".  Think silly, light, fun...think Sex and the City, Confessions of a Shopaholic, 27 Dresses, etc. 

Sisterhood: this term has become increasingly common in the way we speak, but truly is a timeless idea.  According to, sisterhood is "A bond between two or more [women], not always related by blood. They always tell the truth, honor each other, and love each other like sisters."  Those stories where women, related or not, find each other, form strong relationships, and weather whatever comes their way.  There is nothing more powerful than when people stand together whether to fight for something or just to hold each other up.  This form of sisterhood can be found in a myriad of books and is always profound as well as beautiful.

Empowerment:  Now there's a term we hear often, women's empowerment.  For your reading purposes, this is a collection of books about being a woman, being strong within yourself, standing up for what's good and beautiful within and standing up for other women.  Included are some incredible true stories of the journeys women have been on and how they not only made it through but succeeded.

I'm certain that you can find one or ten books on these lists that will fit perfectly into your summer reading list.

So ladies...let's get reading.