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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This is the first in a series of three novels written by the late Stieg Larsson, a Swedish journalist specializing in antidemocratic right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations and the editor-in-chief of the magazine Expo. Larsson has developed a story based on what he knows about, with a protagonist named Mikael Blomqvist, the editor of a financial magazine who is facing a short jail sentence for libel after his expose of a corrupt financier goes off course. Blomqvist is approached by the elderly industrialist Henrik Vanger who requests that Mikael investigate the disappearance of his teen-aged niece more than forty years earlier. To sweeten the deal, Vanger says he will present Blomqvist with the goods on the corrupt financier after the mysterious disappearance is solved.

Blomqvist is assisted in his investigation by the inscrutable Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed genius computer hacker who introduces an additional theme to the storyline, that of sexual violence against women. With the resolution of the mystery there is the promise of further adventures with Blomqvist and Salander. Well-drawn characters, attention to detail, and a fast-paced plot make this an enjoyable read.

Friday, December 14, 2012

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 15th
The Thirteenth Tale, written by Diane Setterfield
When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales.

February 20th
The Girl Who Played with Fire, written by Stieg Larsson
On the eve of the publication of a sex-trafficking expose, two reporters responsible for the magazine story are murdered. The fingerprints on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander, a genius hacker, prompting the magazine’s publisher to launch his own investigation to vindicate her.

March 20th The Irresistible Henry House: a Novel, written by Lisa Grunwald
Cared for in a series of temporary homes where young women are taught mothering, skills, winsome orphan toddler Henry captures the hearts of program director Martha and each of his temporary mothers while hoping for a permanent home.

April 17th The Gangs of New York: an Informal History of the Underworld, written by Herbert Asbury
This is an illumination of the gangs of old New York that ultimately gave rise to the modern Mafia.

May 15th Wide Sargasso Sea, written by Jean Rhys
Inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and set in the lush landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman and marries him. Afterwards, the rumors begin, poisoning her husband against her and driving her towards madness.

June 19th A Thread of Grace: a Novel, written by Mary Doria Russell
In 1943, fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum and her father flee across the Alps into Italy with thousands of other Jewish refugees seeking safety, only to find an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allied forces, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding and ordinary Italians.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Fiction

Some holiday romances:

A Fool’s Gold Christmas, by Susan Mallery, is about injured dancer Evie Stryker and her return to her hometown of Fool’s Gold and her estranged family. In a “bah, humbug” mood, Evie is talked into staging the town’s winter festival and then she plans to leave. But an unlikely attraction to her brother’s best friend results in a Christmas miracle.

The Christmas Singing: A Romance from the Heart of Amish Country, by Cindy Woodsmall, portrays the celebration of Christmas among the Amish, while telling the story of Mattie Eash, for whom Christmas has painful memories since her fiancé Gideon abruptly broke up with her three years ago. Although her move to a new town has brought her a new life as a cake decorator and a new love, Mattie unexpectedly must return home where she meets up with Gideon again.

An O’Brien Family Christmas, by Sherryl Woods, presents the reader with two romances within the O’Brien family as they celebrate Christmas in Dublin, Ireland. Playboy Matthew falls for older woman Laila but then she breaks off their romance. Can he win her back? Then matriarch Nell meets up with an old boyfriend and the sparks fly. Will these two couples end up happily ever after?

Christmas and mysteries:

Twelve Clues of Christmas, written by Rhys Bowen, features Lady Georgiana Rannoch, who is 35th in line to the British throne and in need of funds, in this Depression-era story. She is able to hire herself out as a paid hostess at a country Christmas house party. The holiday festivities begin; until the murder victims begin to pile up. Christmas recipes and period party instructions are included.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, by James Patterson, shows us Alex Cross at home with his family after finding the thief who stole from his church’s poor box. Then, he gets another phone call summoning him to investigate and solve a complex hostage situation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

All About Style

     When you do something with style, you express your personality. Each of us, as an individual, have different tastes in clothing, décor, favorite activities and more. Here are some books that celebrate our differences and our similarities.

     The Truth about Style, written by Stacy London, the co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, highlights the stories of nine different women from all walks of life. Before sharing these stories, however, Stacy tells us about the ups and downs of her own life and how she overcame her problems. Then we see how Stacy guides the nine women in their search for new self-images, starting in their closets. Several color photos accompany each case study.

     Cupcakes and Cashmere: a Guide for Defining Your Style, Reinventing Your Space, and Entertaining with Ease, is written by Emily Schuman, the creator of the blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. This guide is arranged by season and is packed with information relating to the topics of style, beauty, at home and food and entertaining. The text is complemented by attractive color photos.

     Wear This Now: Your Style Solution for Every Season and any Occasion is written by Michelle Madhok with Eileen Conlan. Madhok is the founder of Shefinds Media, which includes the website This book helps the reader analyze her clothes closet, shop like a pro, look fabulous in every season and dress for special occasions. Cute color illustrations abound.

     Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend combines a biography of fashion designer and icon Lilly Pulitzer with an examination of her style sense and business acumen. The book, written by Kathryn Livingston, includes a large scoop of gossip and a collection of appealing black-and-white celebrity photos.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Humor at the Library

Sometimes life can get you down. We have a solution for that: visit the library and pick out some humor books. Some of our new ones include:

I Hate Everyone . . . Starting with Me, written by comedienne Joan Rivers, is a rant against all people, no matter how worthy they may be, or how politically incorrect it is to belittle them. She goes after the dead, the elderly, the disabled, and people with annoying habits, people with good manners, and on and on. Although funny to read, the reader may find him or herself wincing at some of the jokes.
How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life, written by Dan Wilbur, gives tips on how to fake leading a well-read life, in order to impress others and be successful. An added bonus is the section of book jacket redesigns.
Suburgatory: Twisted Tales from Darkest Suburbiais written by Linda Erin Keenan and based on the television show by the same name. The book describes how Keenan’s life changes after she leaves her job as a CNN news producer and becomes a suburban stay-at-home mother. Her humor targets upper-middle class homeowners and parents.
The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever, is David Yoo’s autobiographical account of his failure- and fear-filled experiences from early adolescence to adulthood. Now the author of two young adult novels, Yoo enables the reader to identify with his pain and laugh along with him.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dieting the Healthy Way

Learn to control your weight the healthy way with these new diet books. They are:

     The DASH Diet for Weight Loss: Lose Weight and Keep It Off – the Healthy Way – with America’s Most Respected Diet, written by Thomas J. Moore, MD, describes the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan originally developed to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as lower the risk of developing serious illnesses such as stroke, heart failure, colon cancer and more. Included are tips on meal planning, food tracking, exercise, and grocery shopping. Both meat-eater and vegetarian meal plans are offered; along with a brief collection of recipes.

     Eating Well, Living Better: the Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food, is written by Michael S. Fenster, MD, a cardiologist and host of a local cable TV cooking show “What’s Cookin’ with Doc”. Here is a weight loss plan, nutritious eating plan, and collection of healthy recipes all wrapped up in one book.

     Hungry for Change: Ditch the Diets, Conquer the Cravings, and Eat Your Way to Lifelong Health, by James Colquhoun and Laurentine Ten Bosch, presents confirmed methods for losing weight and preventing and reversing disease through healthy diet. Also included are several recipes, menu planners, and a three-day detox plan.

     The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss is written by Kathy Freston, a wellness expert who has appeared on several national television shows. During each day of this 30-day routine, the reader makes small, healthy diet and lifestyle changes that yield big results. A chapter containing 45 recipes, and numerous suggestions on what to eat, complete this book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Travels to New York City

     One of the greatest cities in the world is just a short car or train ride away from us on Long Island. Whether you’re going on a day trip or a weeklong vacation, look under Dewey number 917.47 for New York City travel books to suit a wide range of interests.

     Here are some new books that focus on some of the more popular aspects of travel: sightseeing, shopping and eating.

     The Art Lovers’ Guide New York: The Finest Art in New York by Museum, Artist, or Period, is a fully illustrated manual about its art museums and galleries. The reader is presented with half and full page black-and-white and color photos of sample paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, accompanied by text that describes more than sixty museums and galleries. Maps and indexes accentuate the guide’s usefulness.

     The Stylist’s Guide to NYC, is written by Sibella Court, who is an “in the know” interior stylist. She introduces the reader to the city’s various stores, services, galleries, markets, and places to eat. Color photos, maps, concise, informative text and an index make this a dependable handbook.

     Zagat 2013: New York City Shopping is billed as a survey “covering 2,212 stores in New York City, as rated and reviewed by 14,407 avid shoppers on”. Stores are rated based on their quality of merchandise, display, service and cost. Entries are listed alphabetically; lists are arranged by special features, merchandise, and locations

     Zagat New York City Food Lover’s Guide 2012/13 is a combination of brief reviews and lists compiled by category, ethnic focus, and food tours. It is “based on the opinions of 6,909 avid food lovers . . .covering 1,537 food and entertaining resources in New York City."

     Let’s not forget Brooklyn! Food Lovers’ Guide to Brooklyn: Best Local Specialties, Markets, Recipes, Restaurants, and Events, written by Sherri Eisenberg, contains summaries of “Foodie Faves”, “Specialty Stores, Markets, and Producers”, and “Food Events” presented in chapters arranged by neighborhood. Maps and indexes help the reader access information.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dog Stories

     Man’s best friend (and woman’s too), the dog, is featured in a few new non-fiction books.

      Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars is written by Bill Berloni, a theatrical animal trainer and Jim Hanrahan. This second edition tells the story of Bill’s first discovery of the dog that became Sandy in the Broadway play Annie; and continues with chapters about other dogs featured in the plays Gypsy, Anything Goes, the Wizard of Oz, Oliver and more, films and television shows. The book features several color and black-and-white photos of the stars, both dog and human. Berloni’s thirty-plus year career as an animal trainer earned him the 2011 Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater award.

     A Dog Named Boo: How One Dog and One Woman Rescued Each Other – and the Lives They Transformed Along the Way, is written by Lisa J. Edwards, whose decision to take on the runt of the litter was of benefit to both of them. Edwards, a dog trainer with her past history of being physically abused identified with the disabled dog. Boo joins her family, which includes her husband and other dogs and cats. He trains to become a therapy dog and is able to change the lives of several individuals, including Lisa’s.

     Sophie: the Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog, written by Emma Pearse, tells the story of an Australian cattle dog who, lost at sea, managed to rescue herself by swimming through shark-infested waters to land, surviving in the wild for five months. This is a harrowing adventure with a heartwarming ending in which Sophie is reunited with her owners. Color photos add to the reader’s enjoyment.

     What Dogs Want: A Visual Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Every Move, is written by Arden Moore, an animal behavior consultant and author of several books about dogs and cats. Using color photos and easy-to-read text, Moore describes 100 different postures, expressions, sounds and actions; for each she identifies what the dog wants, how to respond, and whether the behavior is limited to certain breeds or is displayed by all dogs. This is an entertaining book for all dog owners.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dreams of Joy: A Novel

     Written by Lisa See, this is a sequel to the novel Shanghai Girls, in which sisters Pearl and May flee war-torn China and escape to California and arranged marriages. In Dreams of Joy, Pearl’s daughter Joy learns the truth about her birth, kept secret by her mother and aunt for many years. She travels to Mao Tse-Tung’s Communist China, both to find her real father, an artist, and to support the revolution, a cause she naively supports since her year as a college student. Pearl follows close behind, yearning to save her daughter from danger and heartbreak.

     The story is told from two points of view; that of mother and daughter. Each is determined to fight for what is believed to be right. Joy finds hardship, disillusionment and maternal love in her life in China; she settles in a rural area during a famine, in a loveless marriage, struggling to keep her infant daughter alive. Pearl learns to allow her daughter her independence; she renews old relationships and learns not to blame herself for her husband’s earlier suicide. How the two of them survived and managed to escape is an adventure in itself; the book’s greatest strengths are its multi-faceted characterization and emotional intensity.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Books to the Big Screen

     Books are not just for reading! Since the beginnings of film production, books have been a wellspring of story ideas. Their adaptations have provided us with countless classic films. Here are some of these books-made-into-movies that we have in our collection.

     Awakenings, a memoir written by Oliver Sacks, a neurologist who, during the late 1960s, worked with institutionalized patients suffering from encephalitic Parkinsonism (sleeping sickness) caused by an epidemic just after World War I; he describes how treatment with a new drug, L-DOPA, brought them out of their trancelike states into normalcy. Unfortunately, the drug only works temporarily and the patients eventually return to their catatonic states.

     Memoirs of a Geisha, written by Arthur Golden, is a novel set in the years between World Wars I and II, and beyond. It tells of Nitta Sayuri, a poor girl sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house, her training as a geisha, and life in Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto. Eventually, the geisha houses are forced to close during World War II and Sayuri must reinvent herself in order to survive.

     The Pianist: the Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945, is the memoir of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a concert pianist and composer who, although his entire family were transported to concentration camps and died, was able to survive in hiding. Eventually, Szpilman was rescued by a German officer, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld, who heard him play the piano.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

     A novel based on factual information and written by Susan Vreeland, it tells the story of Clara Driscoll, an artist and artisan who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany in his stained glass factory. The book combines details about the history of the stained glass industry, the culture of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the problems of working women, the advancement of labor unions and more, all while exploring Clara’s life and relationships with friends and lovers.

     Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany & Company jewelers, was an artist in his own right, known for his magnificent stained glass windows. Much of his company’s manufacturing work was done by men but unmarried (only) women were hired to select the colors of the glass and use them in detailed work, as Mr. Tiffany believed that women had a better eye for color. Clara became an indispensable part of Tiffany’s company as her management skills (at one time she managed a department of close to thirty women artisans), her attention to detail and her creativity developed. Only recently has it been determined that Clara was the originator of the Tiffany lamp, designing and supervising the manufacture of a great many versions of it. Ultimately their production was halted because of its overwhelming expense. Clara resigned from the company because of her impending marriage, ending an important era in American crafts history.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Astaires: Fred and Adele

     If you think you know all there is to know about Fred Astaire, one of the best dancers of twentieth-century movie musicals and cinema partner to several leading ladies; then you may or may not have heard of Fred’s early years. This book, written by classical scholar and modern theater historian Kathleen Riley, traces the origins of Fred’s career in which he and older sister Adele, showing talent early on, relocate to New York City to train and then perform in early twentieth-century vaudeville. Strong family ties with their parents and one another help Fred and Adele cope with early career disappointments but their talents shine through and eventually they attain success on the Broadway circuit during their twenties.

     At first Adele is identified as the more talented of the two, with her natural comic and dancing skills garnering her more recognition. But Fred’s perfectionist drive eventually draws attention to his genius. In their thirties, Adele retires to marriage and Fred takes on Hollywood, performing in several musicals and other films throughout the years.

     Several black-and-white pictures are interspersed throughout the text, highlighting the duo’s performances and relationships with theater notables of the day. A chronology of their theater performances is given and notes and bibliography aid those readers interested in further research.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vegetarian Cuisine: New Cookbook Selections

     Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution, with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes is written by Michael Natkin, a chef and author of the blog Herbivoracious. His culinary creations are inspired from international cuisines, particularly those from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia. After a personable introduction to the book and some notes on ingredients and cooking equipment, Natkin devotes his energies to a wide range of main course dishes, as well as selections of appetizers, soups, salads, sides, desserts and more. Gluten-free and vegan recipes are available too.

     Vegan Cooking for Carnivores: over 125 Recipes So Tasty You Won’t Miss the Meat is written by Roberto Martin, personal chef to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. When DeGeneres and de Rossi turned to a vegan diet, eschewing all animal proteins including meat, milk, butter, eggs and cheese, they didn’t want to eat tasteless foods. Then they were introduced to Roberto Martin who was not a vegan but was interested in making food vegan. He was able to reproduce their favorite foods by substituting animal proteins with vegan alternatives. The recipes for several of these dishes with accompanying color photographs, ranging from breakfast, lunch and dinner and including soups, salads, entrees, sides, desserts and more, are presented to the reader.

     Vegetarian Cooking, part of the At Home with the Culinary Institute of America series, is directed toward the vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike. Focusing on lacto-ovo vegetarianism, in which meat, fish and seafood aren’t eaten but dairy products and eggs are, the recipes highlight an assortment of soups, salads, sandwiches, beans, tofu, grains, pasta, vegetables and more. Large color photos add to the book’s appeal.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think

     Forget those doom and gloom predictions about the future! Author Peter H. Diamandis, the chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, chairman of Singularity University and founder of several space and high tech companies, makes use of his expertise in a wide range of sciences and technologies to reassure us that the time is fast approaching when all of humanity’s basic needs will be met and then some.

     In co-authorship with award-winning journalist Steven Kotler, Diamandis describes how the knowledge bases in such areas as artificial intelligence, robotics, computing, digital manufacturing, medicine, nanotechnology, energy, food production, and many others have been growing exponentially. In turn, solutions will be developed for such problems as water and air pollution, starvation, scarcity of medical care and limited educational opportunities. Strengthening social forces such as the DIY innovator, Technophilanthropists (such as Bill Gates), and the Rising Billion (third world citizens who will advance thanks to their cell phone and Internet connections), will provide the impetus.

     Detailed references and notes and a comprehensive index at the end of the book support the reader’s further research.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Books About Interior Decoration

     Are you looking to make changes in your home’s interior design? Get some new ideas when you check out these books.
      Home Design: a Layer-by-Layer Approach to Turning Your Ideas into the Home of Your Dreams is written by Sabrina Soto, an HGTV television personality. She shows the reader how to streamline the interior design process by “layering” the decorating elements one on top of the other. She begins with the first layer, understanding your space and planning your design, and continues with choosing colors, selecting surface treatments, organizing with storage, editing furniture, selecting textiles, and developing a lighting plan, until she reaches the final layer with choosing accents. A large collection of color photos illustrate Soto’s design ideas; the easy-to-read text also is helpful.
      Step-By-Step Home Design & Decorating is written by Clare Steel, an interior designer from the United Kingdom, who has written for several decorating magazines and property and design websites. Her book focuses on the practical side of design: from planning the layout of a bathroom, to evaluation and selection of kitchen appliances, refinishing wooden floors, selecting window treatments and sewing curtains, hanging wallpaper, setting up display space in a child’s bedroom, choosing lighting fixtures, and much, much more. The work continues with redecorating the outdoor space: planning electrical and water features, selecting hard landscaping, and choosing plants and furniture. Large color photos and detailed drawings accompany the logically organized text; sidebars offer additional information.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

     Written by Muriel Barbery and translated from the French language, this novel is set in Paris and tells the story of two females, Madame Renee Michel, the middle-aged, unattractive concierge of an upscale apartment building and Paloma Josse, the twelve-year-old daughter of one of the resident families. Although barely aware of one another at first, each hides a secret. Renee is a closet intellectual who lives for her pursuits in philosophy, literature and film. Paloma also is a highly intelligent and perceptive individual who plans to commit suicide by her next birthday, in order to avoid life’s disappointments.
      The reader is treated to an analysis of French upper middle-class society, with some of its strengths and many of its weaknesses in full display. Several of the interactions between Renee and her tenants, and between Paloma and her family, are quite humorous.
     There is a change in the atmosphere when a new Japanese tenant, Kakuro Ozu, arrives on the scene. He recognizes the qualities of both Renee and Paloma, initiates friendships with them and sets the courses of their lives on different paths.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jane Eyre

     This timeless classic was written by Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847 under the male pseudonym Currer Bell. At this time in British society, women were not thought to be capable of writing literary works. However, Jane and two of her surviving sisters (as well as their brother) all were accomplished writers.

     The story is presented as an “autobiography” of Jane Eyre. We learn of Jane’s harsh childhood as an orphan living in the home of an aunt by marriage, verbally and physically abused by the aunt and her cousins. Jane is sent off to a school for orphans where at first she and the other students endure much hardship, being half-starved and living in an unhealthy residence. After several students die of tuberculosis, new management improves the school’s living conditions. Jane perseveres and is able to obtain a well-rounded education. At the age of eighteen, she seeks employment as a governess. She obtains a position as instructor to the female ward of Mr. Rochester, a wealthy landowner who is often absent from home. When Mr. Rochester does return, there is an instant attraction between him and Jane. Their relationship develops and leads to a marriage proposal. However, a mysterious “presence” in the attic of the manor turns out to be Rochester’s current wife, a madwoman unable to be controlled and who has been hidden from society. The discovery made just before Jane and Rochester’s marriage convinces Jane that it is better for her to flee rather than remain as Rochester’s mistress.
     Fleeing with no worldly possessions, Jane wanders the countryside starving and without shelter. She finally is taken in by the Reverend Saint John Rivers and his two sisters. Although Jane hides her identity to prevent being discovered by Rochester, she is found out when an Eyre cousin dies and leaves his money to Jane. It turns out that Saint John and his sisters also are Jane’s cousins. Jane shares her inheritance with them; Saint John plans to use his money to work as a missionary in India and proposes that Jane marry him and works with him in India too. However, since there is no love in this match, and Saint John is too controlling, Jane resists.

     In a mystical occurrence, Jane hears Rochester calling her. She immediately returns to Thornfield where she discovers the manor destroyed by fire and learns of the death of Rochester’s wife while he tried to rescue her. He is blinded as a result. Jane goes to see him; they marry.

     This is a novel of many themes, one being that of the inequality of opportunity for females in comparison to males, another is the inequality between the classes. It is a moral tale, with one example being Jane’s refusal to be with Rochester while he is married, and one of superstition and mysticism. All of the characters are well-developed. Above all, Jane Eyre is a strongly emotional work that captivates the reader from beginning to end.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Short Story Discussion Group

No time to read a whole novel? Why not try our short story discussion
group? Our group meets every second Friday of the month at 11 a.m.

Upcoming sessions:
     July 13 -- The Stories of Junot Diaz
     August 11 -- The Stories of H.G. Wells.
Pick up stories at the Circulation Desk.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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:  

July 18th
Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, written by Jeannette Walls
The author offers a novel based on the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, who learned to break horses in childhood, journeyed 500 miles on a pony as a teen to become a teacher, and ran a vast ranch in Arizona with her husband while raising two children, including Rosemary Smith Walls, portrayed in the author's acclaimed The Glass Castle.

August 15th
Clara and Mr. Tiffany, written by Susan Vreeland
Hoping to honor his father and the family business with innovative glass designs, Louis Comfort Tiffany launches the iconic Tiffany lamp as designed by women's division head Clara Driscoll, who struggles with the mass production of her creations.

September 19th
Dreams of Joy: A Novel, written by Lisa See
A continuation of Shanghai Girls finds a devastated Joy fleeing to China to search for her real father while her mother, Pearl, desperately pursues her, a dual quest marked by their encounters with the nation's intolerant Communist culture.

October 17th
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, written by Stieg Larsson
Forty years after the disappearance of Harriet Vanger from the secluded island owned and inhabited by her powerful family, her uncle, convinced that she had been murdered by someone from her own deeply dysfunctional clan, hires journalist Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander, an unconventional young hacker, to investigate.

November 21st
The Time Traveler’s Wife, written by Audrey Niffenegger
Passionately in love, Clare and Henry vow to hold onto each other and their marriage as they struggle with the effects of Chrono-Displacement Disorder, a condition that casts Henry involuntarily into the world of time travel.

December 19th
The Kids are All Right: A Memoir, written by Diana Welch
The poignant, harrowing story of four siblings--Amanda, Liz, Dan, and Diana Welch -- who despite their wrenching loss and subsequent separation, retained the resilience and humor that both their mother and father endowed them with--growing up as lost souls, taking disastrous turns along the way, but eventually coming out right side up and being together again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Imagine: How Creativity Works

       It is a misconception that only a few individuals are truly creative, and that they are born with this trait. Creativity is within reach of all humans; author Jonah Lehrer describes how we can attain this higher level of thinking.

       What is necessary to expand creative thought? Lehrer reveals these techniques chapter by chapter. One is thinking outside the box. Another is relying on the right side of the brain; this hemisphere emphasizes insight over analysis. Others include relaxation, enjoying a different perspective through travel, collaborating with others, receiving constructive criticism, working in densely populated environments much like large cities, and more. Lehrer describes fascinating examples of creative individuals at work in the arts, sciences, businesses, schools, and other domains. At the end of the book, Lehrer admits that the creative process is never easy but is very necessary for future human advancement.

       Jonah Lehrer is a journalist (New York Times, Nature, New Yorker, and Scientific American) contributing editor (Wired) and author of books on the topics of psychology and neuroscience.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

     Here is a novel written entirely in personal letter format. It was co-authored by Mary Ann Schaffer, who became ill before the final editing process and her niece Annie Barrows, a children’s writer, who prepared the book for publication.

    The setting of the novel: Post World War II Guernsey Island, a part of the United Kingdom that was occupied by the Nazis during the war. The main character, writer Juliet Ashton, a straightforward and goodhearted woman in her early thirties who has had some literary success but now is searching for a new project. Her personal life is a mix of successful relationships (we read her correspondence with her close childhood friend and the friend’s older brother who also is Juliet’s publisher) and uncertainty (she is in a whirlwind courtship with an attractive but overbearing American publisher.) Then Juliet receives a letter from a Mr. Dawsey Adams, the purchaser of a book about Charles Lamb once owned by Juliet. Juliet is intrigued when she finds out that Dawsey and his friends formed a literary society during the German occupation; its original purpose was to provide relief from the restraints on their lives. Surprisingly, many of these members who never read much before now enjoyed it. In short order, several other society members begin writing to Juliet about their experiences. Juliet decides to visit these new friends and in doing so finds her life changed forever. Humor, sorrow, romance, strength in adversity, and more are all feelings that the characters, and the reader, experience in the telling of this story.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lost Years: A Novel

     Mary Higgins Clark is the author of over thirty suspense novels featuring self-reliant young career women who are able to emerge triumphant from attacks by criminals and other evil individuals. In The Lost Years, we find Mariah Lyons reeling from the murder of her biblical scholar father Jonathan Lyons; it appears that he was killed by Kathleen, his wife of forty years and an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer. But appearances aren’t always as they seem. Although police initially believe that Kathleen is the culprit because of her enraged feelings towards Jonathan and his mistress Lillian, another possible motive soon is revealed. Jonathan may have discovered an extremely rare document from biblical times, a letter from Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea. If this document was real, Jonathan intended to return it to the Vatican Library. But perhaps the exorbitant amount of money an article of this value could earn in the marketplace might tempt someone to murder. Jonathan’s discovery may have been shared with his inner circle of friends, four men who also are biblical scholars and Lillian.

     Short, rapidly-paced chapters follow the suspense as seen through the eyes of each character in turn, reaching a peak of excitement and a satisfactorily happy ending. Although the book might not be considered fine literature, Clark does have a fortunate talent for concise character depiction and lush description of the visual.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cupcakes: The Latest Trend in Baking

Why are cupcakes so appealing? Because they’re easy to decorate! And you can create a different look for every one! And they are portion controlled – unless you eat more than one! Here are some recently published books about cupcakes.

Cake Pops by Bakerella: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats is written by Angie Dudley, who hosts the blog site Here she presents forty different cake pops, with accompanying photos and clear step-by-step instructions.

Celebrate with Cupcakes: Designs and Techniques for Creating 30 Gorgeous Cupcakes, written by Lindy Smith, a professional baker and baking author who lives in Great Britain. Her book includes the basics of baking, decorating and painting the cupcakes, then progresses to the creation of seasonal/holiday and animal-modeled examples.

The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories from the Sisters of Georgetown Cupcake is written by Katherine Kallinis & Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, authors and sisters who recount their life story here. Both college graduates, Katherine and Sophie left promising careers to open a cupcake shop, DC
Cupcakes that took off. They now have a second shop and a hit television series on TLC. Their stories are interspersed with recipes and photos.

Two-bite Cupcakes , written by Viola Goren, presents 70 cupcake recipes that range from those that include special fillings, to toppings, to chocolate and to savory ingredients. Celebration cupcakes for holidays and special events also are given. The importance of proper equipment and correct ingredients are emphasized. Easy-to-follow instructions and photos accompany each recipe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

       What if you have boundless energy, are restless and have mood swings from high to low. Does this mean you are bipolar? Or, if you like everything very orderly, arrange things by size, shape, or color, and have unreasonable recurring thoughts. Do you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Not necessarily, according to the theories espoused in this book by Dr. Dale Archer. The author, who is a psychiatrist, media presenter and website host, conjectures that eight of the psychiatric disorders highlighted in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, are not full-blown psychoses but instead are normal human qualities that each of us possess, whether nearly absent, dominant, or superdominant, along a continuum. So, the person with ADHD may simply be adventurous, an individual exhibiting social anxiety may be shy, and the narcissist is very self-focused. Dr. Archer also compares schizophrenia with magical thinking on the continuum, histrionic personalities with dramatic ones, and people with generalized anxiety disorder with the hyper-alert.

       Although Dr. Archer recognizes that individuals who are super-dominant on the continuums for any one of these psychological traits probably will require psychotherapy and/or medication, he believes that we should appreciate these traits that we all possess to a greater or lesser degree. The easy-to-read book contains several in-depth examples of these behaviors, a list of bibliographic sources, and eight brief questionnaires designed to help the reader determine where he or she falls on the continuum for each.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Lost Wife

       Author Alyson Richman offers a hauntingly beautiful story of love lost and then found many years later, paralleling the story of the surviving Holocaust victims, their losses and their struggle to regain some of life’s joys, while never forgetting those that they lost. A large part of the tale takes place in Czechoslovakia before and during World War II, where Lenka, an art student and Josef, a medical student meet and fall in love. They marry just as Jewish citizens are scrambling to escape from the approaching Nazi army. Josef and his family are able to obtain passage to the United States but because Lenka’s family cannot do the same, she refuses to leave with Josef, staying behind with her family. Josef promises to send for Lenka and her family as soon as he is able.

      First, Lenka’s family is shipped off to Terezin, a prison camp in Czechoslovakia. There they suffer much hardship, although Lenka is able to use her artistic skills to produce objects for the Nazis and to give some purpose to life. Eventually the family is sent to Auschwitz where only Lenka survives. Josef loses his family in a shipwreck on their way to the United States. He arrives alone in New York. Although the couple has frantically tried to communicate with one another, through the confusion of the war each mistakenly learn that the other hasn’t survived.

    After the war each remarry; Josef to a fellow refugee whose loss of family has permanently damaged her life and colored their marriage with sorrow; Lenka to an American Jewish soldier who is part of the liberating army, their marriage has more joy in it. Life continues for Josef and Lenka. Eventually both are widowed. Coincidentally, Josef and Lenka each have a grandchild who fall in love with one another and marry. It is on that wedding day that Josef and Lenka discover one another again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Authors With April Birthdays

Here are some well-known authors who were born in April.

April 1st – Anne McCaffrey, the renowned science fiction/fantasy writer who has given us the Dragonriders of Pern series, as well as several other series and individual novels. Her books feature in-depth characters and imaginatively detailed settings on other planets.

April 2nd – Hans Christian Anderson was the 19th-century fairy tale writer and folklorist who enchanted children and adults. Some of his most famous works include The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, and The Little Mermaid.

April 8th – Barbara Kingsolver is the author of critically acclaimed works of fiction (The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible,
Prodigal Summer, etc.), short stories and some non-fiction featuring such topics as social justice and biodiversity. Several of her books have been on the New York Times Best Seller List. Kingsolver has lived in and traveled the world over.

April 12th – Tom Clancy is the prolific author of fiction based on the themes of espionage, technology and military science. Two of his most famous characters, Jack Ryan and John Clark, are featured in several novels. More recently he has produced the Op-Center and NetForce series. His name also has been used in conjunction with the creation of video games and movies based on his books.

April 12th – Scott Turow is a practicing lawyer and the author of several legal thrillers; Presumed Innocent, Burden of Proof, Ordinary Heroes and others. Two of his novels have been made into films. He also wrote two non-fiction books. He has won several literary awards. He currently is president of the Authors Guild.

April 22nd – Janet Evanovich, the author of a “romantic adventure” series featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, got her start by writing romances. Now with eighteen novels in this series, Evanovich has branched out with other series novels, some written individually and some co-authored with others.

April 24th – Sue Grafton is the author of the “Alphabet Series” featuring private detective Kinsey Millhone and set in 1980’s Santa Teresa, California (a fictionalized Santa Barbara). Grafton got her start writing screenplays for television movies until she was able to develop her skill at writing novels. She has won several awards for her works.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace -- One School at a Time

Here is the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who in 1993 was unable to complete his ascent of the Himalayan Mountain K2. He was rescued and nursed back to health by residents of a remote mountain village in Pakistan. Emotionally moved by the selfless actions of these people, Mortenson decides to dedicate his energies to building schools for the region’s children, especially the girls who at this time had no educational opportunities whatsoever. Although the region was rife with Taliban and could be dangerous for Americans, Mortenson stood by his promise. He travelled back and forth between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan for the next few years, coordinating funds and overseeing an increasing number of projects. These included construction of schools, bridges and other structures, and the development of small businesses by residents, especially women. The text is filled with descriptions of the people Mortenson worked with, village elders and residents and students in Asia and the donors/supporters from the United States and across the world. A collection of photos complement the narrative. This is a heartwarming story, only slightly marred by recent reports that Mortenson may have exaggerated and/or modified parts of his story.

The Authors:
Greg Mortenson is currently the director of the Central Asia Institute. A resident of Montana, he spends several months of the year in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
David Oliver Relin is a contributing editor for Parade magazine and Skiing magazine. He has won more than forty national awards for his work as a writer and editor.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

With this work of narrative historical nonfiction, author Erik Larson showcases American society and its customs during the late nineteenth century. The 1889 French Exposition Universel, featuring the newly-built Eiffel Tower, was a tough act to follow. But the United States was determined to outdo the French and show the world that we could surpass them in matters of culture and innovation. Chicago and New York each vied to be the host of the 1893 World’s Fair; amazingly Chicago was selected to receive the honor. The up and coming Chicago architectural firm of Daniel H. Burnham and John Root was chosen to be in charge of the design and construction of the fairgrounds, which included the creation of buildings, landscape design, and selection of the various exhibits. With time running short, construction troubles abounding, and committee members fighting among themselves it seemed unlikely that the fair would be completed on time, especially with the death of partner John Root early on. But through the labors of Daniel Burnham the fair was able to open on schedule.

At the same time another massive project sprang to life. Serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett, whose alias was Dr. H. H. Holmes, a man of some medical talents and much charm, and a bona fide psychopath, decided to move to Chicago to pursue his own interests of murder and dissection of human bodies. His victims were mostly young women on their own; they were less likely to be missed. Holmes constructed a hotel so that he could rent rooms to the fair visitors. Unbeknownst to all, this hotel also housed a gas chamber and a crematorium that were used in the murder of more than 200 people. Eventually Holmes was caught, tried and put to death.

Throughout the book, we get to meet a variety of well-known historical figures such as landscaping genius Frederick Law Olmsted (also the designer of Central Park), Buffalo Bill, Susan B. Anthony, George Washington Gale Ferris (the originator of the Fair’s greatest attraction , the Ferris Wheel), Thomas Edison, and more. Most importantly, we are able to visit a more innocent time in American history.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Victims: An Alex Delaware Novel

A grisly murder scene, the likes of which have never been seen by detective Milo Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware, is what starts off Jonathan Kellerman’s latest novel. The victim, a woman well known for her confrontational ways and loved by no one, was found dead of a broken neck; after which the killer skillfully removed all of her internal organs and left them on display. Was this murder a result of the victim enraging the killer, or was it the beginning of a serial killing spree or a continuation of one from long ago? The murder victims keep popping up and there aren’t any connections among them. The hunt leads Sturgis and Delaware to the past and a state mental hospital, now closed, yields the clues. With in-depth detective work, psychological insight and forensic investigation, the killer is captured; albeit leaving the duo feeling more regretful than triumphant about their success.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

In her analysis of personality types, author Susan Cain found that approximately one third to one half of all Americans is introverted, and that the others are extroverted. What is an introvert? Psychologist Carl Jung defines this person as “drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling”. What is an extrovert? This is the individual who is drawn “to the external life of people and activities”. But simple definitions don’t explain the complexity of these personality types and the need for both in our society. In the United States, where the extrovert is the ideal in the worlds of business, politics, law, religion, and more, the introvert often is denigrated. Yet Cain finds that introverts shine in creative activities such as the arts, sciences, inventions, etc. Introverts also can metamorphose into “pseudo-extroverts” when necessary in order to attain their goals. And just as American culture idealizes extroversion, societies in other countries differ in their introvert-extrovert makeup. European nations also lean towards extroversion; Asian nations towards introversion.

This book is in an easy-to-read format with many case studies and ending with fifty pages of annotated bibliographic notes. Susan Cain skillfully presents a wealth of information gathered from years of psychological studies and interprets it for the lay reader.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

Famed mystery writer P.D. James tries her hand at a sequel to a Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. In this novel, characters Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for six years, have two sons and are living a peaceful, productive life at the Darcy estate Pemberley. On the eve of the annual autumn ball, chaos erupts with the arrival of a carriage containing Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who with her husband, the ne’er do well Wickham, have been banned from Pemberley. A distraught Lydia is screaming that her husband has been murdered. She must be sedated before Darcy and the others can investigate what has happened. They discover that fortunately Wickham is alive but unfortunately his friend Captain Denny has been murdered; and at first blush it seems that Wickham is the murderer. With a coroner’s inquest and a trial immediately proceeding, the truth comes out and Wickham is exonerated. A well-crafted murder mystery is resolved and a visit to the world of Jane Austen enjoyed through the efforts of the nonagenarian P.D. James.

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel

Written by Kate Morton, this is the story of Nell; a little girl who is abandoned on an ocean liner bound to Australia from England and is raised by an Australian dock master and his wife as their own. Not until her twenty-first birthday does she find out the truth, and the force of this knowledge changes her whole life. As she grows older, Nell begins to put the puzzle pieces together and plans to travel to England to finally learn the truth of her origins. But fate intervenes when her daughter arrives with Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra. Nell postpones her plans forever when she agrees to care for Cassandra. Years later, after Nell’s death, Cassandra is surprised to learn that Nell had purchased a property in Cornwall, England, which she has left to Cassandra. She travels there herself; and finally is able to learn of Nell’s true parentage among the aristocratic Mountrachet family. Cassandra also finds a true love of her own. This combination of family saga and mystery, with a touch of atmospheric charm, is an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

This Pulitzer Prize finalist for biography is based on the life of mathematician John Nash. The book follows the life of Nash from his first entrance into academia, through the onset of his schizophrenic break and his arrival on the other side of said break. This volume not only takes us through the life of Nash but through the period in which he lived; characterizing the world of academia during the middle 20th century as an exclusive and often times anti-Semitic atmosphere. The book also describes the emergence of the new Ivy League, institutions such as MIT and NYU, which won their prestige in part by accepting Harvard and Princeton’s bias cast-offs.

Nasar writes a beautiful biography that any non-fiction reader would enjoy, especially so if they have a mathematic background, however, such background is not required.

In addition to being a Pulitzer finalist, this book was also a 1998 New York Times Notable Book and the Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

Sylvia Nasar is a professor of business at Columbia University and is a trained economist who has worked for many top news organizations including The New York Times, Fortune and US News.


Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar

A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder by Rober B. Oxnam

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman

The Soloist by Steve Lopez


Monday, January 30, 2012

City of Masks

City of Masks by Daniel Hecht

City of Masks is the first in a series of ghost detective stories featuring paranormal detective Cree Black. Cree, after experiencing a terrible tragedy, discovers she has the ability to commune with the spirits of the dead. She uses her ability to try to dispel these spirits and put them to rest.

City of Masks takes place in New Orleans, LA. Cree is hired by Lila Beauforte Warren to investigate a strange manifestation in her family’s 150 year old French Quarter mansion. Cree’s search for ghosts leads her to uncover an array of family secrets that the Beauforte’s matriarch, Lila’s mother, would rather keep hidden.

This book combines spooky ghost manifestations with mystery and would be liked by reads of both genres.

About the Author

Born in New York, Daniel Hecht is an ex-guitarist turned writer. His first book was Skull Session, published in 1998. Hecht holds a MFA from the University of Iowa and currently lives in Vermont. There are currently 3 books in the Cree Black series.


Aunt Dimity Mysteries by Nancy Atherton

Fever Devlin Mysteries by Philip DePoy

Ghost Hunter Mysteries by Victoria Laurie

Haunted Bookshop Mysteries by Alice Kimberly

Bailey Ruth Mysteries by Carolyn G. Hart

Ghost Dusters Mysteries by Wendy Roberts

Friday, January 27, 2012

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything: A Novel

Author Janelle Brown has written a novel about three women from an affluent Los Angeles family and how they are forced to figuratively leave “LaLa Land” behind and learn to cope with reality. Janice, the wife of pharmaceutical company executive Paul Miller, expects to be fabulously wealthy when the company goes public. Instead, she is shocked to find out that Paul is leaving her for her best friend/tennis partner. Moreover, she discovers that several months earlier, she had unknowingly signed papers giving up rights to half of the money earned during the marriage. Her older daughter Margaret, publisher of a failed feminist magazine that has left her penniless, returns to help Janice cope. It’s also a convenient way for Margaret to hide out from creditors. Teenage daughter Lizzie, always plump and an outsider among her peers, finds new-found popularity when she joins the swim team, slims down and also becomes the school slut. But after hitting bottom, the only way to go is up; the Miller women wise up and decide to fight back. Their trip back to semi-normalcy is loaded with humorous and sarcastic turns of events involving divorce lawyers, drug-dealing pool boys, country club society, evangelical church members, and more.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Babylon's Ark: the Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

The true adventures of Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist, owner of an animal preserve and founder of the Earth Organization. At the beginning of the Iraqi War, with its human bloodshed and destruction of property, little was known about the fate of the Baghdad Zoo, located in the center of the city. Anthony cared about the well-being of the zoo’s inhabitants and traveled to Baghdad in order to rescue those who had survived the gunfire and bombings. The situation was very rough at first, many of the animals having been killed or stolen to sell on the black market. Anthony’s “can-do” attitude and political savvy got Iraqis, members of the U.S. military and international animal lovers working together to overhaul and revitalize the zoo; a project that still is ongoing today. This is an uplifting narrative.