Friday, January 29, 2010

What We're Reading: Debbie

Armchair Birder: discovering the secret lives of familiar birds, by John Yow

I love watching the birds that show up at the feeder outside my kitchen window. Often I wonder why they do certain things, or what are they doing when they aren't at the feeder? Well, this author had the same curiosity, and he has written short essays of a few pages each on about 40 different birds that he sees. He lives in Georgia, so they aren't all the same ones we see here in Michigan. I skipped around, reading about the ones I knew visited my yard: the woodpecker, mourning doves, goldfinch, cardinal, blue jay, robin, chickadee, tufted titmouse, and my favorite, the Canada goose (although thankfully, not in my yard). You'll learn something, and it will make watching them more enjoyable.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What We're Reading: Cathy

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.

Eddie Russett is a very curious person. This has caused him problems in the past but nothing like the situation we find him in at the opening of this book: he is being eaten by a Yatevero tree. He is questioning a society that determines how you make your living, who you marry, and who is your "better" by what color(s) you can see. (The violet seeing people are the best by the way.) He questions the rules like, why can't you talk to Apocryphal people, or did the town's last healer (they're called swatchmen as in color swatches) really commit suicide? Why were the knowledge- and technology-taking Leapbacks necessary? His inexplicable attraction for Jane - a Grey - complicates his life but also enlightens him. If Eddie isn't careful he'll get sent for a reboot. And just what is The Something That Happened?

Jasper Fforde has created another totally unique and crazy world. I urge you to give this one a try, especially if you're a fan of his Thursday Next or Nursery Rhyme series.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What We're Listening To: Laurie

I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers

This latest offering from Scott and Seth Avett makes it hard to believe that they used to play for folks in the streets of Greenville, N.C. Their music is rooted in folk and bluegrass -styles which are very evident on this record. One will hear these traditional styles in the song "January Wedding." The lyrics are very emotional and personal, especially on the track "I and Love and You." And then they kick the songs up a notch with a fifties rock feel on "Slight Figure of Speech" and a light, pop rock feel on "Kick Drum Heart." I can't wait to see what the future holds for these talented young men. I hope this won't be the last we hear from them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What We're Reading: Laurie

Fun with the Family in Michigan by Bill Semion.

Do you have the winter blues? Looking for something fun to do?
Check out this book. There are lots of family activities found inside these pages. This title lists favorite events, lodging and dining available throughout our glorious state.

What We're Listening To: Rita

The List by Roseanne Cash

The back story for this album is a poignant one - when Roseanne was 18, her father Johnny Cash, alarmed that she knew only popular songs, gave her a list of the 100 songs that he considered to be essential country songs. She kept the list, and after the death of her father, mother, and stepmother in a two-year span, chose 12 of the songs for this collection. The songs are classic Americana, and Cash emphasizes their beauty and simplicity with understated arrangements. There are some duets here, most notably “Sea of Heartbreak” with Bruce Springsteen (nominated for a Grammy award), but Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright also make appearances. It is Roseanne’s voice that carries the album, however, and her singing is heartbreakingly lovely as she gives songs like “Miss the Mississippi and You”, “Motherless Children”, “500 Miles”, “She’s Got You” and “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” a deeply personal perspective. There are 88 more songs on the original list – here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve heard from it.

What We're Reading: Edward


by Stephen Coonts

In a story taken from today's headlines, the President of Iran plans to make Iran a martyr nation. He has several nuclear weapons in his arsenal. The plan is to fire a thousand missiles at Israel and United States bases in the Middle East. He believes that the resulting retaliation will ignite a holy war against the West. With the help of a small group of Iranian dissidents, Western agents hope to avert this nuclear disaster. Fourth in a series featuring Tommy Carmellini, after Liars and Thieves (2004), Traitor (2006), and Assassin (2008). Be sure to try the Jake Grafton novels also by Coonts.

What We're Reading: Debbie

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

A clunk on his head, a hole in his life. Tyler's most recent novel tells the story of Liam Pennywell, a middle-aged teacher trying to come to terms with the final phase of his life, and his struggle to recover from a robber's assault. The assault caused memory loss, which leads him to Eunice, a woman who he intends to use as his "rememberer". Liam finds his life was much emptier than he thought, but by the end "in the most unforeseen way, Eunice really had turned out to be his rememberer". A nice, quiet story, and a quick read.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Library Star Wars Day News

The Sterling Heights Public Library has made it into the latest issue of Star Wars Insider, the official Lucasfilm fan magazine!

Take a look at Issue 115, pages 76-77, for a photo essay all about last summer's big Star Wars Day here at the library. The Great Lakes Garrison of the 501st Legion submitted this piece to the magazine, and we're very excited to have been included.

The library's next Star Wars Day is scheduled for Saturday, June 19, 2010. Watch our website and the city magazine in late spring for more details.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games, by Brian Mayer & Christopher Harris.

Electronic gaming is all the rage in libraries right now, but this new book recently published by the American Library Association suggests modern "designer" board games merit equal consideration for library programming and even school curricula. After a cogent analysis of the intellectual and social skills that can be derived from board games, the authors present a sampling of recommended games and programs. Parents and teachers, as well as librarians, should find this a very useful book.

Those interested in board gaming at the library may enjoy a new series of Gaming Days to be offered in Youth Services this summer, using the principles outlined in this work. Watch the library website and city newsletter for details later this spring!

What We're Listening To: Abby

Jersey Boys: Original Broadway Cast Recording

I saw Jersey Boys last night at the Fisher Theatre and absolutely loved it! This is the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It takes us back to their roots in New Jersey and shows us how they became The Four Seasons and ultimately Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The music is wonderful and the energy level is contagious. I did not know that Bob Gaudio, one of the members of the band, wrote all of their music. The band was formed by Tommy DeVito, also one of The Four Seasons, in between his stints in prison! He always seemed to walk a fine line between right and wrong and ultimately owed the mob half a million dollars, which the band repaid over many years. The story is interspersed with all of their classic songs sung in the four-part harmony that they are known for.
Some of the memorable songs are: "Sherry", "Let's Hang On!", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like a Man" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." This show won the 2006 Tony award for best musical.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What We're Reading: Alice

Robert B. Parker (1932 - 2010)

"Robert Parker dies at age 77" read the headlines on January 20, 2010.

Robert B. Parker will be remembered for writing short, vivid sentences about a tough guy with a soft heart, Boston PI Spenser (first name unknown), the main character in 37 "Spenser" crime novels. The character was the basis for the 1980s TV series "Spenser: For Hire, " starring Robert Urich. Parker admired Raymond Chandler and other classic crime writers, emulating their cool, clipped style in the first "Spenser" novel, The Godwulf Manuscript published in 1973.

Parker was also known for the 9 "Jesse Stone" novels featuring Paradise, Massachusetts police chief, Jesse Stone ( the latest "Split Image" is due out in February) and the 8 "Sunny Randall" novels featuring another Boston PI, this time female, Sunny Randall.

Over 4 million of Robert Parker's books have been published. These thoroughly entertaining works have been a consistent part of the "bestseller" landscape for many years.

Has Parker left some finished/unfinished works in the publishing pipeline? I sure hope so!

What We're Reading: Edward

Cleopatra's Daughter
by Michelle Moran
The deaths of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra brings to an end their enduring love story. They leave behind three children. The nine year old twins Alexander and Celene, and young brother Ptolemy. Octavian Caesar has them transported to Rome for his triumph. Ptolemy dies aboard ship on the way to Rome. In Rome the twins stay with Octavian's sister, Octavia. Octavia was Marc Anthony's wife before he met Cleopatra. As the twins grow to adulthood, they experience Rome at the start of the great empire. Selene writes of her experiences in Rome from the depths of a slave rebellion to the heights of debauchery at an imperial banquet. All the while, Selene is focused on returning to her beloved Egypt. Everyone seems to be keeping an eye on her activities. Will the twins survive the intrigues of Rome? Will they return to Egypt?
This book is the third in a series after Nefertiti (2007) and Heretic Queen (2008).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What We're Reading: Tish

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney.

This wordless picture book retells one of the well-known Aesop's fables through Jerry Pinkney's extraordinary illustrations. The only words and letters you'll find in the book are embedded in the artwork and represent sounds.

This book has won the 2010 Caldecott Medal - the most prestigious award for children's book illustration in the United States.

You can find our library copy at j398.245 AESOP. The entire family will enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Residents invited to give input on city services

Library patrons are encouraged to attend a series of “Sterling Heights City Summit” meetings in January and February designed to inform residents about the city’s financial status and seek input on city services and programs. The meetings are part of the City Council’s upcoming 2010/11 city budget process and are being hosted by the Sterling Heights Community Foundation. Sterling Heights is among the hundreds of Michigan cities whose budgets are being severely impacted by losses in property tax revenue due to home foreclosures and other issues impacting the current housing market.
“Losses in property tax revenue and state shared revenue will force us to make some tough decisions in the very near future regarding the kinds of programs and services Sterling Heights can continue to offer,” said Mayor Richard Notte. “It’s vital that residents have the opportunity to sit down with us and discuss what’s important to them to gauge what type of city, services and programs residents hope to see in the future.”
The City Summit schedule is as follows (All summits run from 7-9 p.m.):
• Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 at the Warner Education Center, 2791 Koper, Sterling Heights.
• Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 at the Sterling Heights High School Performing Arts Center, 12901 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights.
• Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 at Magahay Elementary, 44700 Oleander, Sterling Heights.
• Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 at Schuchard Elementary, 2900 Holly, Sterling Heights.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What We're Listening To: Abby

In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson
Breakthrough by Colbie Callait
We Sing We Dance We Steal Things by Jason Mraz

I could (and do!) listen to these three cd's all day long. Each one is light and breezy and fun. Jack Johnson is a laid-back surfer from Hawaii who's music can transport you back to the beach and to lazier times. Colbie Callait is a California girl who sings sweet songs about love and life. Jason Mraz's songs are also whimsical and fun and he even has a duet with Colbie Callait called, "Lucky." All of these songs are wonderfully enjoyable.

What We're Reading: Edward

Galapagos: preserving Darwin's legacy
by Tui de Roy and Sarah Darwin
For the Galapagos, 2009 was a banner year. It marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, the 150th anniversary of his publication of "On the Origin of Species", and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Galapagos National Park and the International Charles Darwin Foundation. Now the National Park covers 97 percent of the land area of the islands. This book is really a festschrift. It consists of 28 chapters that each describe an aspect of the Galapagos ecosystem. Everything from the forces that created the islands, its landforms, climate, flora, and fauna are covered. Some of the articles are technical, but the lavish photography keeps the reader engrossed. A must read for the armchair traveler!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What We're Reading: Brenda

Little Snow Goose by Emily Hawkins and The Magical Snowman by Catherine Walters

Both of these picture books have wonderful illustrations and tell charming stories of friendship.

Little Snow Goose is beautifully embossed and children will enjoy touching the raised pictures. It is the story of Little Fox and Little Snow Goose who become the most unlikely of friends. Little Fox finds a goose egg and after it hatches takes on the responsibility of helping Little Snow Goose learn to fly and find her mother.

The Magical Snowman is the story of Little Rabbit who spends all morning building the perfect snowman friend. Little Rabbit believes he is real but Daddy says, "He's just a snowman." After Daddy Rabbit asks him to go pick berries for tea Little Rabbit gets lost in the woods. His snowman friend appears to guide him home. The snowman's body is glittery and raised and lots of fun for little ones to touch.

Readers both young and old will enjoy reading these simple but captivating stories and touching the wonderful illustrations.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

Whiskey Gulf
by Clyde Ford
Finally the winter thaw!
Do you wish that you could be out on your boat?
Let this nautical mystery take you to the unfrozen waters off Washington state.
Former Coast Guard Commander Charlie Noble is investigating the disappearance of a sailboat. The SOS from the boat was incomplete. Did the disabled boat enter the "Whiskey Gulf" naval exercise area? A search for information on the owners of the boat turns up little evidence that they existed. With the help of a Canadian reporter, Charlie finds some wreckage. But he is almost killed trying to recover the pieces of the wreck. Using his contacts in the Coast Guard, Charlie learns some information about the couple. Are they pawns in the global war on terrorism? Charlie and his pal, Raven, are drawn into the search for the couple. Will they be able to rescue the couple?
This is the third in a series after Red Herring and Precious Cargo.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Star Wars: 1,000 Collectibles: Memorabilia and Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away, by Stephen J. Sansweet with Anne Neumann.

There are lots of Star Wars collectors out there, but none quite like Steve Sansweet, owner of the largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world. The collection is so vast it outgrew a shed, a three-story house, and five self-storage lockers, and now fills the buildings of an entire ranch in California bought especially for the purpose.

There are also lots of Star Wars collectible guidebooks out there, but again, none like this one, topping out at 568 pages, written by Sansweet himself, and featuring 1,000 carefully selected items from his famed collection. But it isn't just the size and scope of this book that makes it stand out. What really sets it in a galaxy of its own is the fact that Sansweet has accompanied many of the objects in the book with the stories of how he found them. As any seasoned collector can attest, the process of finding a long-sought object is often just as exciting a part of collecting as actually attaining the piece itself.

Here's Sansweet's caption describing how he came to own his very first, and one of his most valuable, items of Star Wars memorabilia, the Star Wars Promotional Book sent to the media by 20th Century Fox in 1976:

"This is my very first Star Wars collectible, a colorful promotional brochure. It was sent to the reporter who covered the movie business in the Los Angeles news bureau of the Wall Street Journal, where I plied my trade as a journalist. I looked on covetously as my colleague skimmed the pages...and then tossed the booklet and its outer box into his wastebasket. A few hours later he left for the day, and I nonchalantly strolled over to his desk, reached into the basket, and pulled out my prize. I was thankful he hadn't had a messy lunch that day."

From this rather ignominious beginning, Sansweet went on over the years to claim some of the greatest Star Wars merchandise and memorabilia yet seen: a Darth Vader costume actually worn in the Empire Strikes Back; a life-size animatronic Cantina Band made for FAO Scharwz; original theater marquee letters from the 1977 premiere of Star Wars; unproduced prototype action figures; and much, much more.

Collectors of all sorts, and Star Wars fans in particular, will enjoy this look at a lifetime's worth of toy treasure hunting finds.

What We're Watching: Cathy

Food, Inc.

This is a documentary film on the food industry. You see how cattle, pigs, and chickens are commonly raised, slaughtered, and chopped up for market in the US food industry and then also how it is done on an organic farm. They interviewed farmers and processors from both camps and also a woman who became a food regulation activist after her son died of E. coli. I grew rather fond of organic farmer Joel Salatin and his enthusiasm for a truly sustainable and healthy way to farm - and eat. It truly makes you think about what you are actually eating (you're eating more corn than you think) and whether you want to continue this way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What We're Reading: Laurie

The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster by Martin W. Sandler.

Between 1930 and 1936 more than 100 million acres of fertile land turned to dust. The land of the southern plains suffered from overplowing and the overgrazing of sheep and cattle. Not only did overzealous farming practices decimate the fertile soil, but the land also suffered the greatest drought in American history with record heat and high winds. These high winds swept across the prairie bringing enormous clouds of dust which settled on the land like drifts of snow. This book is full of famous, heartbreaking photos of the people who suffered poverty, hunger and homelessness due to this environmental disaster. Out of this disaster came a new form of storytelling-photojournalism. This medium changed the way information was released and enabled people all over the country to become informed of the suffering and devistation caused by these "Black Blizzards".

Monday, January 11, 2010

What We're Watching: Laurie

It Might Get Loud directed by Davis Guggenheim. Starring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.

As a huge music fan, especially of Jimmy Page, I found this to be a truly captivating documentary. Guggenheim presents three gifted guitarists of three distinctly different generations discussing what drew them to the guitar, types of music that has inspired their playing and how they have developed their personal playing styles over the years. Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather) sit down together to trade riffs to specific songs, thoughts on how music and the guitar have changed from generation to generation and to just jam together. The extras are fantastic, especially Page playing acoustic guitar. Hopefully one will walk away with a newfound respect for each of these players and a better understanding of their musical styles. Rated PG.

What We're Watching: Laurie

The Pianist directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Adrien Brody.

tells the story of a Polish Jew, Wladyslaw Szpilman (played by Brody),who is a wonderful concert pianist caught in Warsaw during the Nazi invasion of World War II. Szpilman stays in the war torn ruins of the Warsaw ghetto, fighting for survival, and loses his family as they are deported to the labor camps. This is a captivating story of courage, fear and trying to hold on to one's identity during a very hopeless time in world history. Rated R.

What We're reading: Edward

Who Killed Change? : solving the mystery of leading people through change

by Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard hit the bestseller list in 1982 with his revolutionary book, "One Minute Manager". It was successful because it tried to solve and important business issue using a simple story problem. It was easy to read and understand. The same is true of his latest book. We are all aware that change is difficult. Managing change in a business, with all it's competing factions, is even more difficult. In this book, Agent Mike McNally tries to find out who killed Change. He questions all the usual suspects. They all have their pat answers about how they were working with Change. You will recognize their answers and attitudes. But will you be able to mange CHANGE?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What We're Reading: Abby

This is a coming-of-age story, at least in the political arena, of Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain. It's a memoir of her experiences on her father's 2008 presidential campaign where she had the responsibility of maintaining the blog, This was a daily blog about life on the campaign trail from the vantage point of a young republican. There are many bad hair days and lessons in how to dress properly as well as how to behave and how not to behave when everything reflects on the candidate. Though she at times comes off as a spoiled drama queen in many parts she seems to have such an out-going and fun personalilty that you can't help but like her. She adores her parents and tried in her own way to contribute to the effort to have her father elected president.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire
by Margot Berwin
There are many fiction books that feature recipes either at the beginning of chapters or at the end of the book. This novel features a description of a plant at the beginning of each chapter. Lila Nova is newly divorced and living in a Manhattan studio apartment. Her apartment is as empty as her life. Lila buys a tropical plant to put in her only window. Soon Lila purchases several more and turns her studio into a hothouse.Walking home one day, she sees an unique plant in the window of a laundromat. Inside Armand's laundromat are more plants and a special aura. Because of Lila's big mouth, Armand's place is wrecked. Lila promises to replace the nine plants of desire that were stolen. They travel to the Yucatan to search for replacement plants. While searching for the plants Lila embarks on an adventure of self-discovery. The perfect book to make you feel the sweltering Yucatan on a cold winter evening!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

From Square One: a meditation, with digressions on crosswords

by Dean Olsher

Olsher's book on crossword puzzles is like a crossword itself. It is a lose collection of facts, information, trivia and musings on crosswords, all related but unique. Olsher gives the history of the crossword puzzle since its debut in 1913. Over 50 million Americans regularly solve crosswords. Olsher explains the differences between American (trivia heavy) and the British (verbal play) crossword puzzles. Olsher wants the British type to become more popular in America. He also goes behind the scenes to show how crossword puzzles are made and who makes them. Olsher even describes his attendance at a crossword puzzle tournament. Every crossword puzzler can learn something from this book.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What We're Reading: Edward

Spy Who Came For Christmas
by David Morrell
Agent Paul Kagan is undercover inside a group of Russian mobsters. He is told to steal a "package". The "package" turn out to be the infant son of a peace activist. Kagan goes rogue. He steals the baby and tries to escape the Russians. So begins a game of cat and mouse during the Christmas Eve celebration in Old Town Santa Fe. It begins to snow as Kagan tries to evade capture and certain death. He hides in a house with a mother and son. Kagan is injured and needs their help. He turns them into commandos. Will any of them survive to see Christmas morning?
Great read for both men and women!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What We're Watching: Laurie

I'm Not There directed by Todd Haynes. Starring Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Wisham, Bruce Greenwood, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

takes on an incredibly difficult project about a fascinating, complex individual- Bob Dylan. This film is labeled as a biopic but Haynes uses an unconventional approach to tell the story of this cultural icon. Haynes delves into the many facets of Dylan's personality by having different actors portray six different aspects of Dylan's life. A young aspiring singer/songwriter named Woody (Franklin) helps tell the beginnings of this story. Ledger plays Dylan as a lover and father; Bale portrays Dylan as the stage performer and born-again Christian; Wisham is Dylan the rebel; Gere depicts an older Dylan and Blanchett delivers a stunning, dead-on performance as the acerbic, thoughtful interviewee Dylan during the mid 1960s who refuses to be pigeon-holed by the press.
This is an intriguing take on the life of a man whom the media labeled the 'Voice of a Generation' when all he really wanted was to be a songwriter. Devotees of the musician will enjoy deciphering aspects of the backstory used to tell the tale. Casual fans of Bob Dylan will enjoy the background music which includes some original tracks as well as covers by other musicians. I loved this film. It was dark and full of complexity just like Dylan himself. Rated R.

What We're Reading: Cathy

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd.

This is the start of a new mystery series starring Bess Crawford, a WWI nurse. We meet Bess just before her hospital ship, the Britannic (sister ship of the Titanic), is blown up by a mine in the Mediterranean. While she recuperates and waits for her new orders, she decides to fulfill a promise she made to deliver a message to the brother of a soldier who died in her care. Off she goes to Kent where she meets the dead soldier's family and discovers that they have hidden away both a brother and a murder. Bess' sense of justice requires her to set things right and make sure that the true murderer is identified.

What We're Reading: Judy

Written In Bone : Buried Lives Of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland, by Sally Walker.

If you are a CSI buff and love a good historical mystery, this title is a must read. In 2005 scientists discovered the remains of the James Fort and started to carefully examine the lives of the early colonists in Jamestown.
Numerous remains were discovered while excavating the site, some in shallow graves, others carefully buried in leaden coffins. One mystery focused on a young body buried in the kitchen under the floorboards, perhaps a victim of murder. As you follow the investigation scientists will piece together their lives. The bones reach beyond their graves to tell their story. This title is located at j614.17 W, but adults will be caught up in this historical mystery, too.