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Thursday, December 31, 2009

U is for Undertow

With the latest installment in her alphabet mystery series, author Sue Grafton continues her depiction of the coastal California, 1980s-based world of private investigator Kinsey Milhone. This time around, Kinsey is approached by a young man wanting to hire her to investigate a child abduction that occurred twenty years ago. The prospective client, who was six years old at the time, thinks he remembers seeing two men burying the child in a backwoods area. Against, her better judgment, Kinsey takes on the case. And like most of her cases, this one is completely different from all of the others, yet she again is able to unearth the solution, enabling justice to prevail. In a background story, Kinsey also moves closer to reconciliation with her deceased mother’s family. Skilled plotting and deftly drawn characters make this one of Grafton’s better entries in the series.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked her Marriage, her Job, and her Sanity to Master the Art of Living

Food memoirs seem to be proliferating nowadays. Julie Powell, the author of this book, claims her fifteen minutes of fame too. Julie is a woman approaching thirty, in a dead-end job, married to her high school sweetheart but not ready to start a family yet. Prone to emotional outbursts, Julie is feeling anxious and unfulfilled. She decides to embark upon a project that will encompass her dual interests of writing and cooking. Julie begins writing a blog about her quest to cook all 524 recipes from notable chef Julia Child’s first cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within one year. Newfound recognition from her “bleaders” (blog readers) gives fresh meaning to her life. Julie’s descriptions of friends and family members provide a humorous touch to her book. Some fictional touches, such as Paul Child’s imagined thoughts about his wife Julia, add to the story’s ambiance too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Afternoon Book Discussions

Join us once a month, on a Wednesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 pm, to discuss a fiction or non-fiction book selection. Coffee, tea and cookies are served. Books are available at the Circulation Desk four weeks before the discussion date. Our schedule is:

January 20th
"The Senator’s Wife" by Sue Miller

February 17th
"The Nanny Diaries" by Emma McLaughlin

March 17th
"The Omnivore’s Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan

April 21st
"West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter and a Journey Past Paradise" by Tara Bray Smith

May 19th
"Snow in August" by Pete Hamill

June 16th
"The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story" by Diane Ackerman

Recipes for a Tasty Christmas

Here are three cookbooks to help you prepare for the Christmas holiday season.

“Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season” is a collection of a variety of Christmas cookies, along with guidelines on the baking, storage, and mailing of them. There also is information on how to host a holiday cookie swap and a cookie-decorating party.

“Southern Living Christmas Cookbook: All-New Ultimate Holiday Entertaining Guide” presents more than 350 holiday recipes, from appetizers to desserts, as well as 32 menus for the holidays and for parties during the rest of the year. You can host dinners, brunches, buffets, cocktail parties and more.

“Woman’s Day Christmas Cookies, Candies and Cakes” includes an abundance of recipes, with accompanying color photos, of a variety of shaped, drop and bar cookies along with those for cakes and candies.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Recent Book Selections by Staff

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan, written by Ali Eteraz, is the story of the evolution of the author’s Muslim beliefs. Born into a Pakistani fundamentalist family, he immigrates to the United States as a teen and then returns later to Pakistan, but returns again to the U.S. after his life is threatened. Eteraz explores how his fundamentalist Muslim beliefs have taken a more moderate turn.

The Code Book: The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography, written by Simon Singh, is an account of the use of encryption and cryptography throughout history.

Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Dr. Wayne Dyer, is a guide to getting unstuck from all of the excuses that keep you from reaching your life goals.

Hardball, by mystery writer Sara Paretsky, features another adventure for female detective V.I. Warshawski. This time, she is involved with missing people, one who has been gone for forty years and other more recent cases.

One of Those Malibu Nights, written by Elizabeth Adler, combines mystery and romance, detectives and movie stars. A search for missing persons takes P.I. Mac Reilly from southern California, to Mexico, to the streets of Rome and the French countryside.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mermaid Chair

This novel, written by Sue Monk Kidd, is about Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged housewife caught up in twin predicaments of marital tedium and empty nest syndrome. An emergency phone call leads her to rush to her childhood home on Egret Island just off the coast of South Carolina, also the home to a monastery in which her widowed mother works as a cook. Her mother inexplicably has mutilated herself. Jessie remains on an extended stay at Egret Island, leaving her husband behind, with two goals in mind: trying to help her mother heal in both body and spirit, and looking into what really happened when her father was killed in a boating accident years ago. Also part of the plot is the situation in which Jessie finds herself attracted to Brother Thomas, a monk who is a few months away from taking his final vows. What ensues between Jessie and Thomas helps both discover what their needs and desires are, and where to direct their lives.

Friday, October 2, 2009

North River: A Novel

Pete Hamill has written a period novel set in Depression-era Manhattan, filled with descriptive language and well-drawn characters. His protagonist, Dr. James Delaney, is a general practitioner who cares for all his patients with skill and compassion; his practice encompassing many of his poverty-stricken neighbors and the local Mafiosi. Always the devoted physician, Dr. Delaney is even more intently focused on his work now that his personal life has received a double blow with the disappearance of his wife (a suspected suicide) and his daughter’s elopement with a foreign revolutionary. Then, during a cold and snowy winter, the ice that forms Dr. Delaney’s lonely existence begins to melt when he receives the unexpected gift of his three-year-old grandson, left on the doorstep by the doctor’s daughter. Needing someone to help him with the child’s care, the doctor hires an immigrant woman who soon becomes an inseparable part of this newly-formed family. The plot moves along agreeably to a satisfying conclusion. Here is a story that shows how love and good people can reign supreme.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tenth Circle

Author Jodi Picoult mounts another expedition into the moral world of the American family. Daniel Stone is a work-at-home father who is a comic book artist and his wife Laura is an English professor at a local college specializing in Dante’s Inferno; their only child Trixie is a fourteen-year-old with a promising future. Then, Trixie’s world goes askew when she claims that she has been raped by her boyfriend. Daniel, as the parent closest to Trixie, doesn’t know how to bridge the sudden distance between them. Laura, who has secrets of her own, cannot handle the situation either.

The community turns against Trixie, favoring her ex-boyfriend, the local high school football hero, in the case. Trixie runs off to Alaska, where Daniel grew up as a white boy among the Eskimos. Here he acted out by cheating, stealing, and carrying out other delinquent activities in reaction to the teasing and bullying he received. Daniel ran away when he reached adulthood, vowing never to return and recreating himself as the modern father and mild-mannered man. When Daniel and Laura follow Trixie to Alaska, the situation comes to a boiling point and then reaches resolution, but not before some surprising events take place. The tenth circle in Dante’s Inferno is the worst area of Hell; the Stone family travels there and back in their quest for justice.

Comic book illustrations complement the storyline. This book is ideal for discussion.

Friday, May 29, 2009

True Detectives

The latest mystery written by Jonathan Kellerman, this book features the return of Los Angeles police detective Moses Reed and private investigator Aaron Fox, half brothers and bitter rivals. They were introduced to readers in Kellerman’s last “Alex Delaware” novel; here the characters and the plot are so well-developed that you won’t miss Alex and his friend Milo Sturgis this time around.

When a young woman disappears, a wealthy client contacts Aaron to get some answers for the girl’s father, his employee. Moses gets involved too; this disappearance is a continuation of a police case he was unable to crack earlier. Despite the enmity between Aaron and Moses, they realize that they work well together and a new-found respect for one another develops. The tightly-woven conundrum unravels as the duo discover several sinister individuals and nefarious doings that would be shocking even to Los Angeles’ relaxed moral code. Good triumphs over evil however, when the case is solved. Also, the reader is pleased to witness the brothers’ journey along the road to psychological growth.

Afternoon Book Discussions

Join us once a month, on a Wednesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., to discuss a fiction or non-fiction book selection. Coffee, tea and cookies are served. Books are available at the Circulation Desk three weeks before the discussion date. Our schedule is:

Wednesday, July 15th
Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

Wednesday, August 19th
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

Wednesday, September 16th
North River: A Novel by Pete Hamill

Wednesday, October 21st
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year
of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Wednesday, November 18th
Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town by Kelly McMasters

Wednesday, December 16th
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, And Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living by Julie Powell

Thursday, April 30, 2009

House Beautiful 500 Makeovers: Great Ideas & Quick Changeovers

Published by the editors of House Beautiful magazine, this volume of decorating ideas contains 500 designs to guide the reader in redecorating the home, be it in one room or several. Over 400 pages of full-color photographs illustrate, chapter by chapter, the basic components of design, including those of balance, simplicity, impact, function, details and color. Whether you accomplish a little or a lot, you’ll be inspired to begin creating your dream home.

Drown by Juno Diaz

Drown is a collection of 10 short stories dealing with the immigrant condition. The stories cover a whole range of life experiences, from childhood through adulthood. “Ysrael,” “Aguantando,” and “No Face” are set in the barrios of the Dominican Republic and examine the childhood experience among poverty and in the absence of a father. “Fiesta, 1980,” “Edison, New Jersey” and “Negocios” reflect the Dominican migrant experience and family structure within the United States. “Aurora;” “Drown,” “Boyfriend” and “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” examine the harshness of inner city life, relationships, sexuality and drug abuse.
Diaz’s stories are honest, unapologetic accounts of life, sometimes under the harshest of conditions. Themes addressed in these stories include loss of fathers, the separation of families through immigration and the pursuit of the “American Dream,” the identity crisis of the immigrant, and inner city life.


The stories in Drown contain harsh language and depictions sexuality and drug abuse. This book is for your literary reader who is not offended by such things. The stories in this collection would be great for a book discussion.

About the Author

Junot Díaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and immigrated to the Unites State with his family when he was six. He published Drown when he was 27 years old and 11 years later he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (2008). His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, African Voices, Best American Short Stories (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000), in Pushcart Prize XXII and in The O'Henry Prize Stories 2009.


The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Let It Rain Coffee: A Novel by Angie Cruz

Monday, March 30, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia

Here is author Elizabeth Gilbert’s account of her quest for spiritual, psychological and physical balance after a divorce and other personal problems upset her well-being. Ever the traveler in her work as a freelance writer, Liz plans to visit three countries over the course of a year in order to escape her deep depression and regain her joy of living. Her choices are: Italy, to sample the ultimate in fine cuisine and enjoy their effect on her five senses; India, to study at an Ashram belonging to a guru she met in Manhattan; and Indonesia, where her desire is “to learn . . . how to live in this world and enjoy its delights, but also devote my self to God”. Along the way she makes new friends and finds true love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own

What are fashion’s timeless pieces? Almost every woman has asked herself this question at one time or another. Nina Garcia, the author of this book and The Little Black Book of Style, and also a fashion judge on the television show Project Runway, is a legitimate authority to make these selections. Accompanied by sophisticated illustrations by artist Ruben Toledo, Ms. Garcia alphabetically reviews the top one hundred items in essay format, accompanied by many witty remarks and (fashion) historical insights. This is the perfect book to browse through before going on that big shopping trip.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Motherless Brooklyn

A mystery written by critically acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem, this is a classic whodunit with a twist. Our hero, an aspiring private detective named Lionel Essrog, suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. The condition plays havoc with Lionel’s attempts to communicate with both the good and the bad people he runs into in his search for a murderer. However, this self-educated, intelligent man who is viewed as a good-for-nothing by many succeeds in the end.

Lionel grew up in a Brooklyn orphanage, a loner until small-time crook Frank Minna selects him and three other orphans and entices them to carry out various semi-illegal jobs with the lure of twenty dollar bills as rewards. The years pass and the orphans now are in their twenties and settled in their work for Frank. When Frank is murdered, Lionel charges into an investigation that connects him to a couple of Mafia big shots, some Japanese businessmen involved in inscrutable dealings, a Zen Buddhist commune in the middle of Manhattan, and more. Expect equal parts classic detective novel and hilarity when you read this book.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

As written by Simon Winchester, here is a factual account of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary intermixed with a superb mystery tale. Although it took seventy years to produce, with the assistance of thousands of learned individuals writing the definitions and tracings of over four hundred thousand words, two men were instrumental in producing a greater part of this multi-volume masterpiece. They were Professor James Murphy, editor of the dictionary for over thirty years, and Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon and veteran of the Civil War, who contributed over 10,000 definitions to the work. Both of these men resembled one another in their devotion to their study of the English language. However, the mystery arose in that for twenty years, Dr. Minor refused to meet with Professor Murphy to discuss their work. When the professor finally travelled to meet the doctor, he discovered that Dr. Minor was a criminally insane murderer incarcerated in the criminal lunatic asylum of Broadmoor. It was to Dr. Minor’s advantage that his scholarly involvement in the dictionary’s creation was a balancing force in his life; it was to Professor Murphy's benefit that Dr. Minor's work contributed so much to the dictionary.

This book provides an analysis of several subjects: the design of the English language, the history of dictionaries, and the treatment of mental illness in the nineteenth century. It also offers the reader a closer view of the passions and obsessions of two brilliant men.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dashing Through the Snow

Mother and daughter suspense writers Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark team up again for another Christmas-holiday novel. Writing in their usual light mystery/romance style, the Clarks revisit some of their favorite characters: lottery winner/amateur sleuth Alvirah Meehan and her husband Willy, and private investigator Regan Reilly and her NYPD officer husband Jack. This time around, while visiting a quaint New Hampshire village celebrating its first annual “Festival of Joy”, they become involved with a local mystery: a man has disappeared shortly before it is discovered that he shares a winning lottery ticket with his co-workers. It is determined that he has been abducted. The kidnappers are con men who find themselves in over their heads when some really nasty hard-core criminals take over the job. Not to worry; a rescue ensues and all ends happily.