Monday, March 25, 2013

Best Imaginary Countries in Books

A good mythical country is not a place that doesn’t exist. It’s a place that does exist but you weren’t aware of it, either because you didn’t look at the map carefully, haven’t spent enough time in that particular part of the subarctic Eurasian hinterlands, or simply got confused by the exotic-sounding name. 

1. Costaguana - The setting of Nostromo, Joseph Conrad’s acid 1904 political novel about a revolution-torn, resource-cursed country plagued by the meddling of cynical and idealistic Westerners. Since it combines aspects of Colombia, Peru and most of all Panama (none of which Conrad ever visited, interestingly), its location is thought to be somewhere along the coastline of northern South America. 

2. San Lorenzo - An impoverished, densely populated Caribbean island run by a psychopathic dictator known as Papa. Not Haiti, surprisingly, but the home of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 cold war satire about scientific hubris and the end of the world, Cat’s Cradle

3. Uqbar – You don’t know where it is and you never will, because the men who created it, a benevolent conspiracy of master-scholars in either seventeenth-century London or Lucerne, didn’t want you to. However, you could read “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” the lead story in Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones, which tracks down the conspiracy’s origin in the missing pages of a pirated encyclopedia, and soon leads to the discovery of an even larger conspiracy: an invented universe. 

4. Absurdsvanϊ– Before Gary Shteyngart’s 2007 novel, Absurdistan, few Americans outside Washington DC or the Halliburton headquarters in Houston had heard of this post-Soviet mini-republic (the “Norway of the Caspian,” as it was once briefly known) damned by an unfortunate name but potentially redeemed by geostrategic value.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Insane City by Dave Barry

A dark comic masterpiece—the first solo adult novel in more than a decade from the Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times–bestselling author.

Seth Weinstein knew Tina was way out of his league in pretty much any way you could imagine, which is why it continued to astonish him that he was on the plane now for their destination wedding in Florida. The Groom Posse had already sprung an airport prank on him, and he’d survived it, and if that was the worst of it, everything should be okay. Smooth sailing from now on.

Seth has absolutely no idea what he’s about to get into. In the next several hours, he and his friends will become embroiled with rioters, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, a pimp as big as the Death Star, a very desperate Haitian refugee on the run with her two children from some very bad men, and an eleven-foot albino Burmese python named Blossom. And there’re still two days to go before the wedding.

As it turns out, it’s not smooth sailing, it’s more like a trip on the Titanic. And the water below him is getting deeper every minute. By the end, amid gunfire, high-speed chases, and mayhem of the most unimaginable sort, violent men will fall, heroes will rise, and many lives will change.

Seth’s, not least of all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celebrating 75 Years in Film!

Although 1939 is considered the "golden year" of classic Hollywood, 1938 was a banner year for enduring movies, as well, and 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of these great films.  Here are a few of the most influential movies marking their 75th anniversaries this year.

BringingUp Baby Howard Hawks directs Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in this beloved screwball comedy about a madcap heiress and the leopard who helps her entangle a handsome paleontologist. Although it failed to earn a single Oscar nomination in 1939, "Bringing Up Baby" has become a true standard of the comedy genre. Who can resist Hepburn, Grant, and a supporting cast that includes Charlie Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald, and May Robson?

YouCan't Take It with You  The Best Picture winner in 1939 would be this sentimental comedy from Frank Capra, which stars Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, and Lionel Barrymore as the leads in another cast packed with treasures. Spring Byington was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the matriarch of the eccentric Sycamore clan, and the movie earned seven nominations in all, with a win for Capra's direction joining the Best Picture award.

Jezebel  Bette Davis beats Vivien Leigh to the Civil War ball by a year with this costume melodrama from director William Wyler. Along with Davis, who won Best Actress for her role, the film stars Henry Fonda, George Brent, and Fay Bainter (who won for Best Supporting Actress), while Max Steiner provides the Oscar-nominated score.

Pygmalion  This English adaptation of the play by George Bernard Shaw features Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard as the Cockney flower girl and her difficult mentor, with direction by Anthony Asquith. Both Hiller and Howard earned Oscar nominations for their parts, and the movie also scored a Best Picture nod, but its only win was for Best Screenplay. Wilfrid Lawson gives a terrific performance as Eliza Doolittle's opportunistic father, Alfred.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gary Paulsen

Mr. Paulsen is one of today's most popular writers for young readers.  You might have enjoyed Lawn Boy, a recent Texas Bluebonnet nominee or his most recent, Liar, Liar.  I read Hatchet in elementary school and was simultaneously enthralled and repulsed by its thrilling plot. A thirteen year old boy is stranded in the Canadian wilderness after his plane crashes.   Highlights of his fight for survival include learning to build a fire, eating turtle eggs, and creating an array of weaponry.  If you've got a tween boy, he will be in awe of this hero.

Mr. Paulsen himself isn't too shabby, either.  He ran away from home and joined the circus at age fourteen.  He's worked as a ranch hand, a magazine proofreader, and an Alaskan dog sled racer.  And he's consumed a steady diet of books since a librarian gave him a book to read and his own library card.  To Mr. Paulsen, reading is the ultimate adventure: "I owe everything I am, and everything I ever will be to books."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Get a Clue!

We welcome the return of Sherlock Holmes, the world's most renowned and beloved detective!

Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective in literary history. For the first time since the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a new Holmes story has been sanctioned by his estate, whetting the appetites of fans everywhere. Horowitz truly pulls off the wonderful illusion that Arthur Conan Doyle left us one last tale, occurring in 1890 London.

Literary researcher and newest inductee into the Baker Street Irregulars, Harold White, is thrilled when the world's leading expert on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle announces that he's found the author's fabled 'missing diary.' When the man is found murdered, it's Harold who must find the killer and the once again missing diary. 

The first Sherlock Holmes letter barrister Reggie Heath answered cost him his fortune, all of his Baker Street Chambers clients, and Laura Rankin, the love of his life. But, he intends to get it all back by representing the driver of one of London's famous Black Cabs, who has been accused of killing to American tourists. Meanwhile, the letters to Sherlock keep piling up. 

Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes' pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises, and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Romances on Fire!

Rowan 'Swede' Tripp is a smoke jumper. She knows how dangerous it can be, having watched in horror the summer before as her partner overshot the landing site and landed in a burning tree. Lately he had been appearing to her in her dreams warning her of coming danger. Was he warning her about her job or her romantic relationship with rookie smoke jumper, Gulliver Curry?

Clay Stryker made a lot of money as an underwear model, but now he's left that life behind and returned to settle down in his hometown of Fool's Gold, Calif., where he plans to buy a ranch and live his life alone. He has no plans to risk his heart again and fall in love. But then he meets firefighter Chantal Dixon, who approaches him with a surprising proposal.

Raine Tallentyre inherited her Aunt Vella's house. She also inherited all the secrets that the house held.  Then a private investigator shows up on her doorstep offering to trade answers about her family's mysterious past for her help in solving the murder case by using the voices she hears in her head. As much as she doesn't want to, Raine finds herself trusting him with her body and soul.

Cartoonist Sarah Moon tackles life's real issues in her syndicated comic strip. As her cartoon alter ego, Shirl mirrors her own life, but when Sarah's for her future are shattered by her husband's infidelities, what would will Shirl do?  Especially when hot firefighter Will Bonner enters the picture?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Lions & Lambs: Picture Books for Spring

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb by Marion Dane Bauer

Noisy and fun, this picture book interprets its titular adage quite literally. As March arrives, a fierce (and rather rude) lion roars and scratches outside a child's window -- and then comes stomping inside, tracking mud everywhere! But as the month progresses and pollen begins to tickle the lion's nose, he sneezes...and a sprightly spring lamb skitters in on the breeze. For another springtime read with a bit each of both rain and sunshine -- as well as palpable anticipation of better weather -- check out Julie Fogliano's wonderful And Then It's Spring.

Mary and Her Little Lamb: The True Story of the Famous Nursery Rhyme - by Will Moses

Did you know that the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is based in fact? This folk-art-style illustrated book tells the story of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, who lived in Sterling, Massachusetts and attended the Redstone Schoolhouse in Sudbury. She loved animals, especially the sheep on her family's farm, and after she rescued a runt of a newborn lamb and nursed it to health, Mary's lamb really did follow her to school. This very sweet story explains how, after that incident, the famous song came to be -- and may make you appreciate it anew!

If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks

How could such a sweet little red-haired girl's mother accuse her of being wild? Worse still, how could she possibly make her sit in the time-out chair? That's precisely what this little girl wonders as she sits in the chair and lets her imagination.  unruly animals take over the kitchen and living room-snorting, charging, and growling as they break dishes, overturn furniture, and create messes.   Sharp-eyed readers will enjoy spotting the toys being blamed for the disasters; the endpapers, with numerous stuffed animals strewn haphazardly across them, provide another clue.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

If You Like Downton Abbey . . .

"We all have chapters we'd rather keep unpublished." 
 ~ Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

The toast of 1893 Newport society, Cora Cash is beautiful, clever, and very, very rich. She's also in need of a suitable husband, which prompts Cora's domineering mother to drag her to England to trade their family's money for a title. Nothing less than a duke will do for Cora, and the handsome Duke of Wareham, known as "Ivo," appears to fit the bill. But the pampered heiress is unprepared for the reality that lies beneath the fairy tale façade. Depicting circumstances similar to those that inspired the marriage of the Earl and Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, The American Heiress combines "flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Upstairs, Downstairs, and a dash of People magazine" (Kirkus Reviews).

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Sterne, the magnificent Edwardian manor house belonging to the family of Charlotte Torrington Swift, is on the verge of ruin. Although most of the servants have decamped, Charlotte remains steadfast in her determination to celebrate her daughter's 20th birthday in style. Disrupting her plans are some uninvited and decidedly unwelcome guests: the stranded survivors of a railway accident who must be lodged at the house until the Great Central Railroad can make other accommodations. But that's not the worst part. One traveler, Charlie Traversham-Beechers, knows much more than is seemly about Charlotte and her family. Will he bring their world crashing down around them? If you enjoy satirical depictions of high society full of unexpected twists and turns, don't miss this darkly humorous novel.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

In 1924, celebrated poet Robbie Hunter shot himself during a house party at Riverton Manor. But what really happened that night? A young filmmaker wants the truth, and the answer lies with Grace Reeves Bradley, a 98-year-old nursing home resident once employed as a maid to Riverton's aristocratic Hartford family. As Grace recalls her early years in service and the events that led to that fatal night, she also reveals long-buried secrets concerning Robbie and the Hartford sisters -- as well as her own connection to the family. Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca in both atmosphere and style, The House at Riverton should also appeal to Downton Abbey fans who enjoy faithful recreations of life during the late Edwardian Era, World War I, and the 1920s.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Now in Theaters!

Check out the book before you see the movie.  All available at your favorite library!

Parker (2013) Poster
Flashfire by Richard Stark
Recently Released as "Parker"

Parker is a criminal with a unique code of ethics. In Flashfire, he finds himself in West Palm Beach, competing with a crew that has an unhealthy love of explosions. When things go sour, Parker finds himself shot and trapped—and forced to rely on a civilian to survive.
Safe Haven (2013) Poster
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships.  But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her.

Killing Them Softly (2012) PosterKilling Them Softly by George Higgins

Jackie Cogan is an enforcer, and when the mob's rules get broken, Cogan is called in to take care of business. This time a high-stakes card game has been held up by an unknown gang of thugs. Calculating, ruthless, businesslike, and with a shrewd sense of other people's weaknesses, Cogan plies his trade, moving among a variety of hoods, hangers-on, and big-timers, tracking those responsible, and returning "law and order" to the lawless Boston underworld.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Best Historical Fiction of 2012

Experience past eras with some of 2012's best Historical Fiction reads!

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

In 1923, Eva English and her devout sister Lizzie embark on a journey to be missionaries in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, while in modern-day London, a young woman's act of kindness to a Yemeni refugee results in an unexpected journey.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

Years after her son's crucifixion, Mary lives alone and in fear, trying to piece together the events that led to her son's brutal death.

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

England's Tower of London was the terrifying last stop for generations of English political prisoners. Across the years, four young royals shared the same small rooms in their dark prison, as all four shared the unfortunate role of being perceived as threats to the reigning monarch; Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane's younger sister, Kate Plantagenet, an English princess who lived nearly a century before her, and Edward and Richard, the boy princes imprisoned by their ruthless uncle, Richard III, never to be heard from again.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Depicts the downfall of Anne Boleyn at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell as Anne and her powerful family fight back while she is on trial for adultery and treason.

The Chaperon by Laura Moriarty

A novel about the friendship between an adolescent, pre-movie-star Louise Brooks, and the 36-year-old woman who chaperones her to New York City for a summer, in 1922, and how it changes both their lives.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Emerald Isle: Teen Fiction

"To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart." 
~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), American politician and sociologist 

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer 

Fiction. After her first attempted robbery goes horribly wrong, newly dead 14-year-old Meg Finn poses a problem for the administrators of the afterlife: she's lived a life that's been split straight down the middle between good and evil, so no one knows whether to send her to heaven or hell. Instead, they send Meg back to Earth to give her a chance to either save or condemn herself. Fans of Irish author Eoin Colfer's wicked sense of humor in the Artemis Fowl books should enjoy this quick, entertaining story, which, while mostly hilarious and irreverent, packs a surprising emotional punch in the end.

The Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Fiction. Set in Ireland during "the troubles" of the 1980s, this moody and suspenseful novel opens with 18-year-old Fergus finding a small corpse buried in a peat bog (where he was digging up peat for his uncle to sell as fuel). Soon the bog is swarming with archaeologists, and Fergus ponders the mystery of his find while trying to study for the exams to get into medical school -- and avoid becoming embroiled in the IRA. Beautifully written, powerful, and occasionally painful to read, this coming-of-age novel gives readers a strong sense of life in Ireland during the time depicted.

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Fantasy. Fifteen-year-old J.J. Liddy lives in Kinvara, a small Irish village where there never seems to be enough time -- in fact, his mother jokingly asks for more "time" as her birthday present. And J.J. is astonished to discover that it might actually be possible! A tip from an eccentric neighbor leads J.J. to Tir na n'Og, the fabled land of the fairies, where the fairies reveal that time has been leaking into their world, leading to a lack of time in J.J.'s world and too much time in theirs. It's up to J.J. to help fix this dangerous problem...before it's too late. Rich in details of Irish music, mythology, and lore, this book is sure to enchant fans of chaotic, intricate stories.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Turns 200!

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” 

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the year Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice was first published.    We've seen an abundance of re-imaginings  of this classic, from film adaptations, including the Bridget Jone's adored Collin Firth edition and Keria Knightly's Academy Award nominated version, to updates with horror-filled twists, and renditions with mysteries.  What's your favorite spin on Pride & Prejudice?  Or do you prefer the original?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

If You Love the Warriors Series

Try a read-alike for the Warriors series for stories of animals and mythological creatures fighting for survival, often during a quest and occasionally in partnership with people.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, Matthias, a young mouse, determines to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior which, he is convinced, will help Redwall's inhabitants destroy the enemy.

The Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture by Kathryn Lasky

When Soren is pushed from his family's nest by his older brother, he is rescued from certain death on the forest floor by agents from a mysterious school for orphaned owls, St. Aggie's. When Soren arrives at St. Aggie's, he suspects there is more to the school than meets the eye. He and his new friend, the clever and scrappy Gylfie, find out that St. Aggie's is actually a training camp where the school's leader can groom young owls to help achieve her goal.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.

Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

Eleven years after the cruel Killdeer took over the Catacombs far beneath the human's Trillium City, Juniper Belancourt, assisted by Vincent and Victor Nightshade, leads a maverick band of rats to escape and establish their own city.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, Judy Blume!

Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We're Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written three novels for adults, Summer Sisters; Smart Women; and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her. 

Judy received a B.S. in education from New York University in 1961, which named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, the same year the American Library Association honored her with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. Other recognitions include the Library of Congress Living Legends Award and the 2004 National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

She is the founder and trustee of The Kids Fund, a charitable and educational foundation. She serves on the boards of the Author's Guild; the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators; the Key West Literary Seminar; and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Judy is a longtime advocate of intellectual freedom. Finding herself at the center of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980's she began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire. Since then, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read. She is the editor of Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers.

Judy has completed a series of four chapter books -- The Pain & the Great One -- illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson. She has co-written and produced a film adaptation of her book Tiger Eyes, and is currently writing a new novel.

Judy and her husband George Cooper live on islands up and down the east coast. They have three grown children and one grandchild.

From the author's official Web site at

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everything Old is New Again!

Enjoy these fresh adaptations from beloved classics!

Book JacketThe Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey 

An updated twist on Jane Eyre.  Taken from her native Iceland to Scotland in the early 1950s when her widower father drowns at sea, young Gemma Hardy comes to live with her kindly uncle and his family. But his death leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and she suddenly finds herself an unwelcome guest. Surviving oppressive years at a strict private school, Gemma ultimately finds a job as an au pair to the eight-year-old niece of Mr. Sinclair on the Orkney Islands—and here, at the mysterious and remote Blackbird Hall, Gemma's greatest trial begins.

Book Jacket The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski 

 A modern take on Hamlet. Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin, until the unexpected return of Claude, his uncle. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

The Three Weismanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Book Jacket
A re-imagining of Senss & Sensibility.  Sisters Miranda, an impulsive but successful literary agent, and Annie, a pragmatic library director, quite unexpectedly find themselves the middle-aged products of a broken home when their mother, Betty, is dumped by her husband of nearly fifty years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband's new mistress, Betty is forced to move to a small, run-down beach cottage in Westport, Connecticut, owned by her wealthy and generous Cousin Lou. Joining her are Miranda, who is escaping unexpected literary scandals, and Annie, who dutifully comes along to keep on eye on her capricious mother and sister. As the sisters mingle with the suburban aristocracy, love starts to blossom for both of them, and they find themselves struggling with the dueling demands of reason and romance.

Monday, February 04, 2013

If You Like Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak

Dana Stabenow's intricately plotted, witty, and sometimes gritty Kate Shugak mysteries paint evocative depictions of Alaskan life, from the rugged landscapes of its national parks to the idiosyncratic quirks of its citizens. Kate, a tough, intelligent Aleut working as a private investigator, meets colorful characters, wades through tricky Alaskan politics, and struggles with personal problems and relationships as she solves a wide range of intriguing crimes. Newcomers who haven't met strong-willed Kate (and her awesome dog, Mutt) should definitely start with the 1st book, A Cold Day for Murder; fans waiting to read the recently released 20th book, Bad Blood, may want to try some of the books below.

Winter Study: An Anna Pigeon Novel - by Nevada Barr
Intrepid park ranger Anna Pigeon returns to Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, situated in Lake Superior, where she once worked for a summer a decade or so ago (and she has the scar to prove it -- check out her 2nd book,A Superior Death, for details). Unlike before, it's bitterly cold as Anna joins a scientific group that's been studying wolves each winter for 50 years when the park's closed. Also on hand is a Homeland Security officer who's there to see if the study should be shut down and the isolated park opened in the winter. But before too much can happen, a dead woman is found, and Anna knows the wolves aren't the only dangerous creatures on the island. Kate Shugak fans should appreciate Anna's toughness and seriousness as well as the strong sense of place and the outdoor settings. 

Tough California PI Kinsey Millhone's 1st outing finds her working a cold case for Nikki Fife, the wife of a murdered (and philandering) divorce lawyer. Having served years in prison for the killing, Nikki's learned of some new evidence and wants Kinsey to find out who really murdered her husband. Like Kate Shugak, Kinsey is a loner (no pets, no plants, no kids, and no current husband) who can take care of herself, but who also has an inner vulnerability. Kate fans who don't mind leaving the cold climate of Alaska for sunny California should check out Sue Grafton's fast-paced, well-plotted tales.

In the sleepy rural town of Painters Mill, Ohio, the Amish and "English" residents have lived side by side for two centuries. But sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community. Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish. Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate has been asked to return to Painters Mill as Chief of Police. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate. She's certain she's come to terms with her past - until the first body is discovered in a snowy field. To stop the killer before he strikes again, she must betray both her family and her Amish past - and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paris: Tre Magnifique!

Lunch in Paris: a Love story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again. Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak'spink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, this is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home.

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Katherine Flynn

A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a thirty-six-year-old American living and working in London, returned from vacation to find that her corporate job had been eliminated. Ignoring her mother’s advice that she get another job immediately or “never get hired anywhere ever again,” Flinn instead cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream—a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

This is a memoir for anyone who has ever fallen in love and anyone who has ever had their heart broken or their life upended. In this remarkably honest and candid memoir, award-winning journalist and distinguished author Kati Marton narrates an impassioned and romantic story of love, loss, and life after loss. At every stage of her life, Marton finds beauty and excitement in Paris, and now, after the sudden death of her husband, Richard Holbrooke, the city offers a chance for a fresh beginning.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

All in a Day

Check out these diverse fiction reads, which all take place in the span of a single day.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests: A NovelSomewhere in the English countryside, isolated manor house Sterne nears ruin -- most of the servants have left, and patriarch Edward Swift is in Manchester trying to find a solution to the family's financial problems. Meanwhile, his wife, Charlotte, and stepchildren Emerald, Clovis, and Imogene "Smudge" Torrington remain at home to celebrate Emerald's birthday. But the celebrations are interrupted by refugees from a nearby train accident. Not quite the social class with which the Torrington-Swifts socialize, the third-class passengers are relegated to the library. But a sense of menace lingers, for everyone in this novel seems to be hiding a secret...many of which are revealed during an unusual parlor game orchestrated by a malevolent interloper. Set ambiguously sometime in the early 20th century, this novel in which class divides are a distinct theme veers from a comedy of manners to something else entirely.

SaturdaySaturday by Ian McEwan

As successful, happily married neurosurgeon Henry Perowne negotiates his way through the crowds protesting the invasion of Iraq (he's on his way to a squash game), he gets drawn into a confrontation with Baxter, a small-time thug, whom he embarrasses in the course of defusing the situation. That same evening, Baxter visits the Perowne home to exact revenge for what he sees as his public humiliation, resulting in a scene so tense you'll be able to feel it. Though the events of this novel take place during the course of a single Saturday, Henry is a compassionate man who considers the world around him, so discourses on surgery, terrorism, art, and gratitude are all part of this "wise and poignant portrait of the way we live now" (Publishers Weekly).

Seek My Face by John Updike
Seek My Face

A day-long interview between 79-year-old Hope Chafetz (a well-known painter and, possibly more importantly, muse to two great artists) and a young journalist named Kathryn serves as the medium for author John Updike's treatise on American art following World War II. Hope, who has married three times and raised three children, opens up under Kathryn's probing into personal and professional topics, and her memories span decades (two husbands offer echoes of Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol). Art historians may be interested in Updike's thoughts on these matters, while other readers will simply be absorbed by his verbal artistry.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll!

Lewis Carroll, a pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was born on 27 January, 1832. He was educated at Richmond School in Yorkshire, Rugby School and Christ Church, Oxford. From 1855 to 1881, Lewis Carroll was a mathematical lecturer at Oxford, where he was a somewhat eccentric and withdrawn character. He loved being with children and wrote many nonsense poems and books to entertain them. He died of bronchitis in his sister’s home in Guildford on 14 July, 1898. Lewis Carroll’s most famous works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (published in 1865) and the sequel Alice Through the Looking-Glass, which contained the nonsense poem classic The Jabberwocky (published in 1872). He wrote these tales to entertain Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coming to TV Near You: The Selection

Set 300 years in the future,The Selection is described as an epic romance centering on a working class young woman chosen by lottery to participate in a competition with 25 other women for the Royal Prince’s hand to become the nation’s next queen. Balancing her loyalty to family, true love, and kingdom, she must attempt to remain true to herself as she navigates the cutthroat competition and palace intrigue, all while a budding rebellion threatens to topple the crown. 

And now, it's being turned into a TV series!  Look for The Selection coming next Fall!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

If You Liked the Wizard of Oz . . .

"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
~ L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), American author, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson
Disney after Dark (Kingdom Keepers Series #1)
Using cutting-edge technology called DHI (Disney Host Interactive), the Disney Imagineers capture the images and voices of Finn Whitman, a young Orlando teen, along with four other kids, then transform them into hologram projections that guide guests through the park. The new technology turns out, however, to have unexpected effects that are thrilling and scary when Finn finds himself transported into his DHI form at night. Is it a dream or reality? Finn and his four DHI friends must do battle with the evil witch, Maleficent, and her Overtakers in order to save Walt Disney World.

Zita the Spacegirl: Far from Home by Ben Hatke
Zita the Spacegirl
After pushing a button she probably shouldn't have, brave young explorer Zita must travel to a faraway planet to rescue her friend Joseph from aliens. Once there, Zita befriends some of the planet's strange (and occasionally adorable) inhabitants and recruits them to help her journey to the castle where Joseph is being held. While the fantasy land of Oz isn't exactly an alien planet, Zita's and Dorothy's stories have a good bit in common -- richly imagined landscapes and characters, menacing villains, and even a slick inventor who may (or may not) have Zita's best interests at heart. 

A Boy and His Bot by Daniel H. Wilson
A Boy and His Bot
In this "campy down-the-robot-hole adventure" (Publishers Weekly), brainy and bashful sixth-grader Code Lightfall tumbles into a hole during a school field trip to an ancient mound...and finds himself in an underground world populated almost entirely by mechanical beings. The only other human in Mekhos, as it turns out, is Code's grandfather, who had originally crowned himself king of Mekhos but is now being held captive by the evil sentient robot Immortalis. If Code can't execute some sort of daring rescue, his grandfather will be killed -- and both Mekhos and Earth will be destroyed.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, A. A. Milne!

Today we celebrate the life of Alan Alexander Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, and other beloved children's classics including When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.

Many of the origins of Winie-the-Pooh are based on facets of Milne's life.  The character Winnie-the-Pooh was christened after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis for the character Christopher Robin. Christopher's toys also lent their names to most of the other characters, except for Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher, who were added in Disney's version of Winnie-the-Pooh.  And Pooh's forest, the Hundred Acre Wood, is based on  Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England.

Thank you, Mr. Milne, for inviting us into the enchanting world of Winnie and his wonderful friends!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Caldecott Medal Turns 75!

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Some of my favorite picks for recent Caldecott books include:

A Ball for Daisy book cover image2012 Winner

A Ball for Daisy by Chis Raschka

In a wordless book with huge children’s appeal, Chris Raschka gives us the story of an irrepressible little dog whose most prized possession is accidently destroyed.  With brilliant economy of line and color, Raschka captures Daisy’s total (yet temporary) devastation. A buoyant tale of loss, recovery and friendship.

cover image from "the man who walked between the towers"2004 Winner

The Man Who Walked Between Towers by Mordicai Gersetin

his true story recounts the daring feat of a spirited young Frenchman who walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center twin towers in 1974. His joy in dancing on a thin wire high above Manhattan and the awe of the spectators in the streets far below is captured in exquisite ink and oil paintings that perfectly complement the spare, lyrical text.

hugo cabret book cover image2008 Winner

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

From an opening shot of the full moon setting over an awakening Paris in 1931, this tale casts a new light on the picture book form. Hugo is a young orphan secretly living in the walls of a train station where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father. In a work of more than 500 pages, the suspenseful text and wordless double-page spreads narrate the tale in turns. Neither words nor pictures alone tell this story, which is filled with cinematic intrigue. Black & white pencil illustrations evoke the flickering images of the silent films to which the book pays homage.