Friday, September 29, 2006

A glowing recommendation of this debut novel from a Canadian author is well deserved. Don't plan on taking this book home unless you have some time to read--because you won't be able to put it down. It has been on Canadian best seller lists since it was published this past spring.

The Birth House by Ami McKay

"Canadian radiojournalist McKay was unable to ferret out the life story of late midwife Rebecca Steele, who operated a Nova Scotia birthing center out of McKay's Bay of Fundy house in the early 20th century; the result of her unsatisfied curiousity is this debut novel. McKay writes in the voice of shipbuilder's daughter, Dora Rare, "the only daughter in five generations of Rares," who as a girl befriends the elderly and estranged Marie Babineau, long the local midwife (or traiteur), who claims to have marked Dora out from birth as her successor. After initial reluctance and increasingly intensive training, 17-year-old Dora moves in with Marie; on the eve of Dora's marriage to Archer Bigelow, Marie disappears, leaving Dora her practice. A difficult marriage, many difficult births, a patient's baby thrust on her to raise without warning and other crises (including WWI and the introduction of "clinical" birthing methods) ensue. Period advertisments, journal entries and letters to and from various characters give Dora's voice context. The book is more about the texture of Dora's life than plot, and McKay handles the proceedings with winning, unsentimental care."

- From Publisher's Weekly

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Brothers by Da Chen
New Fiction 9/19/06

"Acclaimed memoirist Chen (Colors of the Mountain) draws on his experiences growing up during the Cultural Revolution for this arresting novel about two brothers negotiating the momentous changes that have buffeted China in recent decades. The protagonists are half-brothers: Tan, the privileged, legitimate heir of Gen. Ding Long, and Shento, the general's abandoned bastard child. While Tan is "groomed to be a leader," Shento is placed in a hellish orphanage where he plots revenge. Shento eventually escapes, joins the army and rises to the head of the president's security detail. Meanwhile, caught on the wrong side of the changes sweeping China following Chairman Mao's death, Tan's family is discredited and flees to their ancestral home in the south where Tan builds an economic empire. Tan also falls in love with the beautiful orphan, Sumi Wo, who has an illegitimate son by Shento. When Sumi and Tan become involved in the pro-democracy movement, they attract official attention, putting the estranged brothers on paths that will converge at Tiananmen Square. Chen's inventive and sprawling family saga eloquently recreates a time of enormous upheaval."

~Publisher's Weekly Review.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read

"Read's impressive debut stars the unusual Madeline Dare, a jumble of contradictions who comes from an old-money Long Island family but is married to Dean, a railroad worker, in Syracuse, N.Y., which our heroine likens in a moment of exasperation to "some mental dust bowl." Dean's job requires frequent travel, while Madeline writes fluff features for the local newspaper. Nothing in her background prepares her for trying to solve the bizarre 20-year-old murder of two young women, a crime that her cousin, Lapthorne Townsend, might have been involved in. Read writes with verve and passion as Madeline sets out to clear her cousin's name, an effort that develops into a much larger, life-changing struggle. Some readers may find Madeline's volatile character less than credible, but the fine supporting cast—notably husband Dean and flaky, flamboyant friend Ellis—consistently delights. The author's sharp social commentary on everything from the idle rich to the environment adds to the pleasure." ~ Publisher's Weekly

The library also has this book on cd. This reader rates this new mystery a definite "thumbs up."

Friday, September 22, 2006

The 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week:
September 23-30, 2006

The American Library Association has information about the most frequently challenged books and authors, as well as an opportunity vote for your favorite banned book.

Google celebrates your freedom to read with a page dedicated to the 25th anniversary and Wikipedia has a list of books plus examples of banning around the world.

"All of us can think of a book... that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf - that work I abhor - then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then we have no books left on the shelf for any of us." ~ Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia

Terrorism: A recurrent theme...

Spy, A Thriller by Ted Bell

"Things along America's southern border are rapidly reaching the boiling point. American girls are being snatched from their homes, ranches are burning, and the number of deadly confrontations along the Mexican border grows daily. At night, armed Mexican troops cross the border at will in support of narcotics smugglers and illegal immigrants. By day, Americans take up arms and plan reprisals. An all-out border war is no longer inconceivable. It's happening." - from the book jacket

Forgetfulness: A Novel by Ward Just

"Thomas Railles, an American expatriate and former "odd-jobber" for the CIA, is a respected painter living with his beloved wife, Florette, in the south of France. On an ordinary autumn day, Florette goes for a walk in the hills and is killed by unknown assailants. Her death devastates Thomas, and in the weeks and months that follow he struggles to make sense of a world that seems defined by violence and pain. Each night Thomas tracks the war in Iraq on the evening news while Florette's killers remain at large. When French officials detain four Moroccan terrorists and charge them with Florette's murder, Thomas is invited to witness the interrogation." - from the book jacket

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Ahoy me hearty!"

In honor of "
International Talk Like a Pirate Day," (invented by two Americans in 1995 who proclaimed September 19th each year as the day that everyone should talk like a pirate) here are a few books to get you started:

Captive of My Desires by Johanna Lindsay

Kingston by Starlight by Christopher John Farley

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, September 15, 2006

Are you a fan of high fantasy fiction?

Armageddon’s Children

by Terry Brooks

In this exciting first installment of a new trilogy, bestseller Brooks effortlessly connects the Tolkien-infused magic of his Shannara books (First King of Shannara, etc.) with the urban, post-apocalyptic world of his Word and the Void series (Running with the Demon, etc.). The author envisions a chilling near-future U.S., where civilization has collapsed from environmental degradation, plagues, global warfare and supernatural threats. The last surviving members of the Knights of the Word, Logan Tom and Angel Perez, seek to keep the “balance of the world’s magic in check” as they battle the Void-embodied by demons, their leader Findo Cask and their vicious human mutant counterparts known as “once-men." --From Publisher's Weekly

Here's an interview with Terry Brooks:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Man Booker Prize is given to a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland for the best novel of the year. Today six books, chosen from the long list of nineteen books, were announced as finalists for this prestigious award. The short list authors will gain worldwide attention and increased book sales, and the winner, to be announced on Tuesday, October 10, 2006, will take home the prize of 50,000 pounds.

The six books are:

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
In the north-eastern Himalayas, at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga, in an isolated and crumbling house, there lives an embittered old judge, who wants nothing more than to retire in peace. But with the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and the son of his chatty cook trying to stay a step ahead of US immigration services, this is far from easy.

Kiran Desai was born in India in September 1971, and was educated in India, England and the United States. She is the daughter of the author, Anita Desai, who herself has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. Kiran Desai’s first book was Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998) which went on to win a Betty Trask Award. She is currently a student in Columbia University's creative writing course.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake for which he and his family are made to pay for dearly. His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. On arrival in this harsh and alien land, William takes a hundred acres of land for himself and is shocked to find aboriginal people are already living on the river.

Kate Grenville was born in Sydney in October 1950 and spent seven years in Europe and the USA working and studying. She holds degrees from the University of Sydney and the University of Colorado and has worked as a film editor, journalist, typist and teacher. Her novels include The Idea of Perfection (2002) which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001. The Secret River won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2006. Grenville has also written two non-fiction books and currently lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.

Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
John Egan has an unusual talent: he knows when people are lying. He hopes that one day this gift will bring him fame and guarantee his entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, but until then, he must deal with the destructive undercurrents of his loving but fragile family. However, John’s obsession with uncovering the truth soon becomes a violent and frightening fixation.

M.J. Hyland was born in London to Irish parents in June 1968. She spent her early childhood in Dublin and when she was eleven the family relocated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. Hyland worked as a lawyer for six years after completing an Arts/Law degree at the University of Melbourne in 1996. Her first novel How the Light Gets In (2004) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and she has also won the Sydney Morning Herald Award for Best Australian Novelist (2004). She currently lives and works in Manchester.

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (call library to request)
On a white hot day in Tripoli in the summer of 1979 nine year-old Suleiman is shopping in the market square with his mother. His father is away on business - but Suleiman is sure he has just seen him, standing across the street in a pair of dark glasses. But why isn’t he waving? And why doesn’t he come over when he knows Suleiman’s mother is falling apart? Whispers and fears intensify around Suleiman and he begins to wonder whether his father has disappeared for good.

Hisham Matar was born in New York in November 1970 and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo before moving back to Britain. He studied architecture at Goldsmith’s College and in 1990, when he was a student, his father - a Libyan dissident living in Cairo - was kidnapped, taken back to Tripoli, imprisoned and tortured and there has been no word since 1995. In the Country of Men is his first novel. Matar has lived in London since 1986.

Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn
The Melrose family is in peril. From young Robert, who provides an exceptionally droll account of being born, to Patrick, a hilariously churlish husband who has been sexually abandoned by his wife in favour of motherhood, to Mary, who is consumed both by her children and by an overwhelming desire not to repeat the mistakes of her own mother, St Aubyn uncovers the web of false promises that entangle this once illustrious family.

Edward St. Aubyn was born in 1960 in a part of Cornwall that has been inhabited by the St Aubyns since the Norman conquest. He was raped by his father as a child, abuse which continued until, at the age of eight, he confronted him. At the age of sixteen, he became a heroin addict and this habit continued at Oxford University. At twenty eight, he contemplated suicide but desperately wanted to write so sought the help of a therapist. In talking through the events in his life, he won a kind of freedom and was able to finally use the material to devastating effect in his fiction.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
This is the story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger. Helen, clever, sweet, much loved, harbours a painful secret and Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly loyal to her brother, Duncan, an apparent innocent who has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways; war leads to strange alliances.

Sarah Waters was born in July 1966 in Neyland, Pembrokeshire and went to the University of Canterbury. Her first book, the Victorian lesbian novel Tipping the Velvet won a Betty Trask Award in 1999 and was adapted into a three part television serial, taking the same title, on BBC2 in 2002. Fingersmith, published in 2002 was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize as well as the Orange Prize. This was also televised as a serial on BBC1 in 2005. Sarah Waters lives in London.

---from The Man Booker Prize Press Office

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Female Brain

by Louann Brizendine, M. D.

"Neuropsychiatrist Brizendine acknowledges she may be going out on a lonely limb by asserting that males and females have distinctly different brains. She says that, in addition to certain hard-wired dissimilarities, male and female brain chemistries differ in being powered by hormones so potent they can reshape each gender's conception of reality (which in no way is related to ability). Thanks to advances in noninvasive imaging technology, such as positron-emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, scientists have been able to quantify the effects of hormones on brain receptors. They have also been able to study how and when surges of specific hormones "marinate" the brain, affecting everything from gender education to sexual responsiveness to aggression. Brizendine doesn't rule out socialization as a factor in gender identification, but she insists that biology must take at least half the credit. What with nearly 70 pages of references to the research upon which she constructs her argument, out on a limb Brizendine may be, but who's left to hand her a saw?"

Donna Chavez, Booklist

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hungry yet?

A new addition to our collection, Brownies to Die For! by Bev Shaffer is a book you may have to spend some time with because there are just too many yummy sounding recipes, not to mention the mouth-watering photographs. Are you an inexperienced baker? Not to worry, the book begins with a chapter of baking basics and recipes run the range from suitable for novices to ones that will challenge the expert.

Just to tempt you, some of the brownies you'll find inside:

Your Momma's Buttermilk Brownies
Irresistible Praline Brownies
Chocolate Cappuccino Brownies with Coffee Frosting
Mocha Brownie Wedgie Sundae
Chipotle Brownies
Waiter, There's a Truffle in My Brownie!
Brownie Banana Split

Friday, September 01, 2006

How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook.

Imagine yourself in one of these situations:

You're headed to the funeral of a family friend who was a devout Catholic and you have no idea what to expect or what to do.

Your new neighbor is Mormon and you've heard a lot about the Morman religion but you'd like to be able to separate fact from fiction.

A friend has invited you to attend her Baptist church and before you go you'd like to know what the service will be like and if there's anything that you can't take part in.

Your boss's daughter is getting married in a Hindu ceremony and you're wondering what to wear and whether or not you can take pictures during the wedding.

Most of us today live in a diverse society, but we're not always sure about what to expect when faced with a different faith. This book give helpful hints about what will happen at different ceremonies, sacraments and services. It covers basic beliefs and it will help you to avoid awkward situations as well as help you to be respectful of another's religious beliefs.