Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What We're Reading: Tracy

Regarding the Bees: a Lesson, in Letters, on Honey, Dating, and Other Sticky Subjects, by Kate and Sarah Klise.

The latest entry in this creative series, told entirely through letters, newspaper clippings, fliers, memos, and press releases, relates the continuing adventures of the students at Geyser Creek Middle School. All the old favorite characters are back, including blustery Principal Walter Russ, beloved teacher Mr. Sam N., and Florence Waters: artist, inventor, and everyone's confidante and problem-solver. This time the intricately plotted story involves bees of all sorts: honeybees, spelling bees, the BEE test (Basic Education Evaluation), and, as the students reach seventh grade, issues involving "the birds and the bees".

If you've never read any of the "Regarding the..." books, start with Regarding the Fountain, followed by Regarding the Sink, Regarding the Trees, and Regarding the Bathrooms.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman.

The latest children's title by the author of the Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book, is another engaging work of fantasy. Set in the time of the Vikings and inspired by Norse mythology, Odd and the Frost Giants tells the story of an unusual 12 year old boy aptly named Odd. An eternal winter has settled on Odd's homeland, caused by the fearsome Frost Giants who have taken over Asgard, the city of the gods. It's up to Odd, with the help of some animal friends who are more than they seem, to end the Frost Giants evil reign, restore the gods to their proper place, and break the spell of bitter cold.

What We're Watching: Mary

Venus Beaute (Institut)

This French film, originally released in 1999, features a 40 year old, somewhat jaded beautician Angele (Nathalie Baye), who seems destined to fail in love. The plot line follows her constantly seeking love in the wrong places, with the wrong men. On either side of her search, are juxtaposed two men: One is a former lover, towards whom she feels eternally guilty after accidentally scarring his face when a gun she was holding went off; and a new prospective lover who develops an infatuation for her that borders upon stalking.

Adding to the development of the plot, are the personalities of her co-workers. One is young and innocent; another somewhat cynical; and the third is her responsible boss. Angele's character is well crafted, in that she has all three of these elements with in her own personality, and they are seen waxing and waning in different situations throughout the film.

The background of the film is very inviting, as much of Angele's life is seen in the context of her work a day world of her somewhat "posh" beauty salon. The staff and clients come in and out of her world accompanied by a delicate bell like tinkling each time the door opens or closes.

After several steps, both back towards her old relationship, and forward to a possible new one, in the end a final, satisfying direction is taken, that seemlessly pulls in the few straggling lose ends.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What We're Reading: Rita

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.

I've been a Tropper fan for years and enjoyed all of his four previous novels. This is his best yet and one of my favorite books of 2009. The main character, Judd Foxman, returns to his childhood home to fulfill his recently deceased father's last request to sit seven days of shiva with his (very dysfunctional) family. But a death in the family is only the most recent in a series of misfortunes in Judd's life. He's living in a tiny basement apartment after separating from his wife. The separation occured after Judd found her in bed with his boss, and his reaction to that discovery has also left him unemployed. Judd is not the most mature guy, and he's obviously not in the best psychological shape when he's forced into seven days of confinement with an outrageous mother and a collection of siblings with "issues" - all of whom are mourning a much loved patriarch. Of course, this being a Jonathan Tropper novel, there is plenty of humor involved, although much of it is black, and there are also a number of cringe-worthy moments. One of this author's strongest gifts is his ability to make the reader care about his characters, even when their behavior is less than honorable. Ultimately this is a funny but serious look at a flawed group of kin that asks what, if anything, connects a family.

What We're Reading: Brenda

Isadore's Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town by Mardi Link

This true crime story written by a Bay City native tells the story of a Felician nun, Sister Mary Janina, who disappeared in 1907 from a Catholic church in Isadore, MI where she taught. Her body was discovered buried in the basement of the church in 1918 and caused quite a scandal in this small, remote, mostly Polish farming community located outside of Traverse City in Leelanau County. To this day the people of Isadore don't like to talk about the "tragedy" and are very secretive about it. The story has all of the elements of a good murder mystery: rumors of a love affair, a hidden body, a scandal in the Church, and an eventual trial. The mystery is also the basis for the Broadway play and film "The Runner Stumbles." At the end of the book you will be left wondering if the right person was convicted and what really was the motive for the nun's murder.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What We're Reading: Cathy

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

You've read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory or seen the movie? Well this is the story from viewpoint of the man who made Anne Boleyn's marriage to Henry VII happen, Thomas Cromwell. It gives us views of his abusive father, his life on the Continent fighting and learning the cloth business and whole lot else. We see how he keeps his head while Henry brings down Cardinal Wolsey, the man Cromwell works for. His rise from butcher's son to the king's chief minister is rapid because of his ability to read people, maneuver politically and get things done. Thomas Cromwell is portrayed as a person you'd enjoy knowing but you'd definitely want to be on his good side!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What We're Reading: Laurie

Ida B. and her plans to maximize fun, avoid disaster, and (possibly) save the world by Katherine Hannigan.

This is a heartwarming story about Ida B. Applewood. Ida is a fourth grader who is homeschooled, has a fantastic imagination and adores to be outdoors. She loves to play in her family's apple orchard and looks upon the trees as her friends. She always tells her parents that there is not enough time in the day to have fun so she tries to create as much fun as she possibly can. Ida B. receives terrible news from her father and her cheerful attitude and positive outlook on life change drastically. Then an adult reaches out to help Ida understand why bad things happen in life and how not to let such circumstances change her personality.

What We're Reading: Laurie

Roscoe Riley Rules #5: Don't tap-dance on your teacher by Katherine Applegate.

Roscoe Riley is a boy who loves to have fun and loves things that make loud noises. In fact, he has a collection of items that make loud noises and he brings them in for show- and- tell whenever he can. When Roscoe's best friend Emma brings her tap shoes to school he decides to take tap lessons because he can make a lot of noise with his feet. Roscoe gets teased by many boys at school for taking tap lessons, and goes to great lengths to get out of dancing with Emma at the school talent show. Roscoe is a very funny character and gets himself into a lot of sticky situations. Younger readers will really enjoy getting to know Roscoe and all of his rules.

Titles in this series:
Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never glue your friends to chairs
Roscoe Riley Rules #2: Never swipe a bully's bear
Roscoe Riley Rules #3: Don't swap your sweater for a dog
Roscoe Riley Rules #4: Never swim in applesauce
Roscoe Riley Rules #6: Never walk in shoes that talk
Roscoe Riley Rules #7: Never race a runaway pumpkin

Monday, December 21, 2009

What We're Reading: Laurie

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.

Seth and his sister Kendra are going to stay with their grandparents for the summer. They have no idea that their grandfather is a caretaker of magical creatures and that his estate is one of the last surviving sanctuaries for these creatures. Seth and Kendra have some wonderful discoveries in store for them as well as challenges that will test their wits, strength and character when a battle between good and evil begins at Fablehaven.

Order of titles in this series:
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star (book 2)
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (book 3)
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (book 4)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What We're Reading: Edward

Something Mis ing
by Matthew Dicks
When you start to read this novel, you may wonder why you are reading a book told by a thief. Martin tells of his burglaries. He is very organized and visits his "clients" on a regular basis. Martin keeps a list of the items to be stolen in French. His car trunk is organized with grocery bags to make his loot look normal. He steals frozen food, toilet paper, Kleenex, and some high priced items. During his visits, he catalogs the client's home and habits. Surprisingly, he becomes a likable character. A classic loner, Martin slowly finds himself involved in the lives of his clients. When he does something good for a change, Martin finds himself reaching out to his clients. This one will sneak up on you.
One of my Top Ten of the Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What We're Reading: Tracy

International Dollhouses & Accessories, 1880s to 1980s, by Dian Zillner.

This beautiful book presents over one hundred dollhouses, spanning a century of manufacture and four different countries of origin. Toy homes from America, England, Germany, and Japan are featured, along with their fabulous furnishings. A special chapter highlights cardboard and paper dollhouses, particularly fragile variations on the theme. You'll want a dollhouse of your own after viewing these diminutive domiciles!

What We're Reading: Tracy

American Dollhouses and Furniture from the 20th Century, by Dian Zillner.

Almost one hundred years of dollhouses and their accessories are featured in this encyclopedic work by American dollhouse expert Dian Zillner. There's something to please every miniature real estate aficionado, from the lithographed wooden Victorian mansions made by the Bliss company in the early 1900s to the modern metal ranch homes made by Wolverine Toys in the 1960s.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions, by Don Wulffson.

Revisit the toys of Christmas past with this great little book, full of fun facts on our favorite playthings. Learn who invented Mr. Potato Head, find out Play-Doh's first industrial use, discover the role Slinky played in the Vietnam War, see how Legos are manufactured, and much more!

Stop by Youth Services in December to see a great display of vintage toys, in the case near the Information Desk.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What We're Reading: Laurie

Regarding the Fountain: a tale in letters, of liars and leaks by Kate Klise.

The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak and the principal writes a letter to Flowing Waters Fountains Etc. to request a catalog. The artist who creates the fountains, Flo Waters, is very eclectic and a world traveler. She begins sending many different plans for the fountain to Mr. Sam N's class at Dry Creek which leads to an interesting discovery by his students about the fountain and the town. A fun read chronicled in letters, cards and transcripts.

What We're Reading: Laurie

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl.

writes the story of a family of foxes whose father is very clever and very brave. Mr. Fox provides for his family by stealing chickens, turkeys and other meat from three farmers. When Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean have had enough of the fox stealing their goods, they decide to outsmart Mr. Fox by surrounding his home (foxhole). This seems like a fantastic plan, but will it work? Read the story to find out if the farmers can out fox this fox.

The movie, directed by Wes Anderson, (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) stars George Clooney as Mr. Fox and Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox. The film is now in theaters and it will be interesting to see how Anderson brings this story to life.

What We're Reading: Edward

Less: accomplishing more by doing less
by Marc Lesser
This is an interesting business book. It could just as easily been a self-help book. This book about accomplishing more by doing less is written by a man named Lesser. He is a Buddhist monk with an MBA. We have all experienced the frustration of trying to do more and more, but ending up feeling like we are just spinning our wheels. Lesser wants us to appreciate the things that we do manage to accomplish. Finding out what is important and then doing them is his cure to a lack of productivity. This book works on so many different levels that it should be reread every year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What We're reading: Edward

Persona Non Grata: a novel of the Roman Empire
by Ruth Downie
Gaius Ruso is the quintessential nice guy who always finds himself involved in other people's problems. To escape problems at home, Ruso signs up to be the Medicus, doctor, to the Twentieth Valerian Victorious Legion in Britannia. His adventures there are chronicled in the two previous books in this series (Medicus, 2006 and Terra Incognita, 2008). Now the injured Ruso receives a note telling him to come home. He returns to Southern Gaul to find his family in turmoil. Being the head of the family, he finds the family farm threatened with seizure for past debts. His sister is demanding her dowry, which she hopes to use to buy the freedom of her beloved, a gladiator slave. His step-mother is adding to the house and demands a lifestyle above their means. Tilla, his slave, lover, confidant, finds herself on the outs with the family. On top of all this the chief creditor is poisoned and falls dead while talking to Ruso. He and/or his family are suspects in the murder. Can Ruso solve all the family problems before he returns to Britannia? Will he and Tilla return?

What We're Listening To: Laurie

The Beatles Remastered Box Set by The Beatles.

The Beatles are my favorite band of all time. They were pioneers of pop music whose experimental ideas became very evident as the band matured. The remasters offer the complete catalog including all of the original art work and historical liner notes, as well as a short documentary which highlights the recording of each album. The vocals are crisp and clean and have been brought out to the front of the recordings. The harmonies are beautiful and it sounds like the band is singing to you in your living room. The guitars and drums are incredible, especially on Let It Be. One can definitely tell that the band was rocking hard on this disc. Just when you thought you knew these albums inside out, you discover new sounds. The box set is a must listen for any die hard Beatles fan.

What We're Watching:Laurie

How I Met Your Mother starring Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris.

Ted (Radnor) tells his children the story of how he met their mother. Marshall (Segel) and Lily (Hannigan) play the fun loving, married couple who have been friends with Ted since college. Robin (Smulders) is the beautiful tomboy with a wicked sense of humor and Barney (Harris) steals the show as the wild, hilarious ladies man. 'Slapsgiving' is one of the greatest episodes in sitcom history (my humble opinion, of course.). Must watch the series from the beginning in order for it to make sense. Season 5 is currently running so check out 1-4 while you're patiently awaiting its release to dvd. Very funny!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What We're Reading: Tracy

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life, edited by Anita Silvey.

Those of us who work with children and books recognize the powerful effects they can have upon their readers. Children's book publisher, editor, and commentator Anita Silvey writes in her introduction to this collection of essays:

"these stories testify to the amazing power of the right book for the right child -- at the right time. A single illustration from Treasure Island created by N.C. Wyeth made his son Andrew want to become a painter and inspired Robert Montgomery to become an actor...Steve Wozniak of Apple Inc. read the Tom Swift books, knew he wanted to be an inventor, and eventually created Apple I and Apple II...Jo March of Little Women inspired actress Julianne times single lines from a book have resonated for a lifetime: William DeVries, the cardiothoracic surgeon who implanted the first artificial heart, has thought about a statement from the Wizard of Oz all of his career -- 'I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur, if you will give me a heart.' "

Perhaps you will find new insight into an old favorite book through this collection of thoughtful reminiscences.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What We're Listening To: Alice

Cradlesong by Rob Thomas - CD

Member of Matchbox Twenty, collaborations with Santana and Mick Jagger, a multiplatinum solo debut album...Something To Be - Rob's come a long way.

Cradlesong, his second solo album, arguably establishes Rob as the most accomplished singer/songwriter of his generation.

There is energy, passion, and truth and feeling in all of his songs. They all tell a story and the lyrics are infused with optimism and hope after the pain.

Rob Thomas has a very distinct voice and he is also a dynamic entertainer on the concert stage. Check him out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

What We're Reading: Edward

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: and other cooking projects
by Karen Solomon
This is not your mother's cookbook for preserving the excess from the summer garden. It has more of an artisan take on regular recipes. You might want to try several of these recipes for holiday gifts. I can't wait until summer to make some of the frozen treats.

What We're Listening To: Abby

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullengerger and Jeffrey Zaslow. Unabridged Audiobook on 8 Sound Discs (9 hrs 15 mins). HarperAudio, 2009. Read by Michael McConnohie with Selections Read by the Author.

On January 15, 2009 Captain "Sully" Sullenberger and his crew of US Airways Flight #1549 were hit by a flock of geese shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. They lost all thrust in both engines forcing Captain Sullenberger to make some very quick decisions. It was as if he has prepared for this moment his entire life. Captain Sullenberger has decades of flight experience logging over 27,000 hours not just with US Airways but with the Air Force flying F-4 Phantom jets. He is a student of aviation history as well as aviation disasters and has participated in accident investigations for the National Traffic Safety Board. Knowing that the plane would not make it back to LaGuardia the Captain made the decision to land in the Hudson River. We are able to follow the actual exchange between the pilot and the air traffic controller from beginning to end. All-in all it took only 3 1/2 minutes from the time the birds hit to the landing but it felt much longer to everyone involved. All 150 passengers and 5 crew members survived with few injuries. Captain Sullenberger is the ideal pilot, always cool and calm even in the face of imminent disaster.

This book covers many other aspects of Captain Sullenberger's life from his family to the hardships faced by the airline industry since 9/11. He details how his salary has been cut 40% and pensions almost eliminated. I was shocked to learn that on long flights from San Francisco to Pittsburgh they don't feed him! He packs a turkey sandwich, peanut butter & jelly sandwich and a banana which he eats while smelling all of the food from First Class.

In this time of constant bad news it is no surprise that Captain "Sully" Sullenberger is being hailed as a hero and will continue to be for quite some time. I found this book to be very inspirational.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What We're Reading: Tracy

Christmas Curiosities: Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas, by John Grossman.

Thoughts of Christmas in the 1800s usually turn toward chestnuts roasting on an open fire, carolers singing at windows, sleigh rides, and the stories of Charles Dickens. But John Grossman reveals another side to the holiday in this fascinating volume, detailing the strange and sometimes disturbing traditions that used to accompany this now beloved celebration. Roving gangs of drunkards; youthful vandals bursting into homes demanding food and drink; witches, devils, goblins, and other Halloweeny iconography; and the fearful Krampus, St. Nicholas' "enforcer", are presented via antique postcards and illustrations from Grossman's renowned collection of Victoriana.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What We're Reading: Edward

Double-Jack Murders: a Sheriff Bo Tully Mystery
by Patrick F. McManus
Since the late 1980s many patrons have searched for non-fiction books by Patrick McManus. His Grasshopper Trap and Night the Bear Ate Goombaw were both on the New York Times Bestseller List. I was surprised to see that he was now writing mysteries; so I had to read one. This is the third Sheriff Bo Tully mystery after Blight Way (2005) and Avalanche (2007). In this latest adventure Bo is asked to solve the seventy-five year old disappearance of a gold miner and his helper. At the same time Bo is being shot at by Kincaid. Bo sent Kincaid to prison. Kincaid has escaped and has sworn to kill Bo. With his father and Deputy Dave, Bo goes off to find the gold mine and the missing miners. Bo also hopes to lure Kincaid into a trap. Bo always gets his man. But this time it happens an unexpected way. But it is the Blight way!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What We're Reading: Edward

Manhood for Amateurs: the pleasures and regrets of a husband, father, and son
by Michael Chabon
Chick Lit has been with us for awhile now. Now there seems to be a trend of Man Lit. Manhood for Amateurs is solidly in this group. Although some of the essays have appeared elsewhere, it is nice to get to read them as a group. Chabon's essays cover the whole gamut for manhood. He compare his outdoor childhood to the current play date and gaming childhood. He discusses the changes in American sexual and drug mores. Chabon has the ability to make you both laugh and cry. His best essays are devoted to the love of his children. A must real for every man!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What We're Reading: Jan

They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators by Harold Evans

If you are intrigued by entrepreneurship, rags-to-riches stories or "how did they think of that?," this book is for you. Sir Harold Evans, the famed British journalist, has always been in awe of American innovation - from the first steps of the settlers dealing with the tribulations of the new world to today's Internet whizzes dealing with the world of computer technology. He believes new ideas have furthered equality in our society: Singer's sewing machine was welcomed in affluent parlors and tenement kitchens, Ford put much of the country on wheels, and Google heads Page and Brin improved access to information for everyone. It's an enjoyable read, and exciting too, as you see how these innovations changed lives. Business people and historians might particularly like it but all of us have benefited from these ideas at one point or another. They Made America is also a PBS program on DVD. It would make a great holiday gift!