February 2009 Archives

Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain

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Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain

Written in 1909 and published posthumously in 1962 after the death of Twain's daughter Clara, who objected to the publication of this collection because she thought it misrepresented her father's views on religion; Letters from the Earth is a striking departure from the humorist writings of Twain's earlier and more famous works. Here, we experience a bitter, sardonic man who is plainly disillusioned with life after the death of both his wife and one of his daughters. "Letters" is a collection of 11 letters from Satan to archangels Gabriel and Michael commenting on the shortcomings of mankind. Well written and cynical, this collection opens a new chapter into the works of who some critics call America's greatest writer. In addition to the "Letters", this collection also features some other essays and short andecdotes. Of particular interest is one essay titledThe Damned Human Race where Twain argues that an anaconda snake is more intelligent and useful than an English nobleman!

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank

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Sophie Applebaum is the middle child in an average, barely-practicing Jewish family. When the story begins she’s about 13 and must go to Hebrew school to have bat mitzvah, like her cousin Rebecca. Each chapter portrays a new stage in Sophie’s life through her 30’s. We are introduced to her friends and lovers, and like many young women, she isn’t sure what she wants ‘when she grows up,’ so we watch her bumble through jobs, boyfriends, etc.

The wit that is inherent in Banks’ writing is what made this book so easy to read. I zipped through in less than two days and lost count of the number of times I laughed out loud. Check catalog for availability. You may also enjoy The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

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Sometimes the best “families” are not connected by blood or marriage. Septuagenarian Margaret has just received a dismal prognosis from her doctor. She lives alone in a grand old Seattle mansion crammed full of valuable antique porcelain obtained by her late father by criminal means. Margaret decides to take in a boarder, & this decision transforms her life. Wanda is the boarder who at age 34 is suffering from a broken heart. The women forge a close relationship and open up their home and hearts to others.

The book is peopled by eccentric, lonely and likeable characters (including some ghosts) who demonstrate that you can spend your life searching for someone or something that might already be right in front of you.
It’s possible for broken porcelain as well as shattered hearts and bodies to be made whole again. I found this very off-beat novel to be a great read.

I had actually been looking for Kallos’ new book, Sing Them Home, but all copies were checked out. You can bet I’m now on the hold list for it.
Check catalog availability for Broken For You

Submitted by Kristin @ Central

Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler

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Eleven short stories about the lives and loves of young Manhattanites are intricately woven together here. All the characters live in or have contact with the Preemption apartment building. The central players, to me, are James, Patrick and Rally who are involved in a hopeless love triangle. I wanted to hear more about these people and I did.

After the first few stories introduce everyone they become more interesting because connections between the characters become increasingly more apparent and peculiar. Check catalog for availability.

August Derleth Program on February 28th!!!!

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Please join the Milwaukee Public Library in celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of esteemed Wisconsin author, publisher and editor August Derleth at a special library program in the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room at 2 pm February 28th.

Governor Jim Doyle has declared February 24th August Derleth Day in honor of his many contributions to the literary world and Wisconsin history and culture.

The Milwaukee Public Library is honoring Derleth by having David Schweitzer, a board member of the August Derleth Society, talk about Derleth’s work. In addition, come meet some Derleth family members and friends and enjoy an exhibit of books by Arkham House authors including Derleth, H. P Lovecraft, Robert Bloch and others.

Born in Sauk City, Wisconsin on February 24th, 1909, Derleth began writing at age thirteen and had his first story published in 1926. After earning a degree from the University of Wisconsin, Derleth returned to Sauk City in 1931. There, in his home town, he began a writing career that would eventually have him labeled as the most prolific writer in Wisconsin history, having published over 150 books ranging in topics from fiction, history, biography, poetry, nature books, horror and supernatural fiction, mysteries and children’s books.

In 1939, Derleth founded Arkham House Press to publish the works of his friend and colleague H.P. Lovecraft. The name Arkham comes from a fictional town in Massachusetts that appeared prominently in many of Lovecraft’s horror stories.
After the death of Lovecraft, Derleth wrote a number of stories based upon notes left by his friend and published them under the byline H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth.

In addition to his association with H. P. Lovecraft, Derleth wrote a famous series of novels with settings in his home town that were coined The Sac Prairie Saga and another series of Wisconsin related books called the Wisconsin Saga. Derleth also wrote histories of The Milwaukee Road, Father Marquette’s travels (a children's book), and the Wisconsin River, amongst many others.
Derleth also wrote mystery stories featuring Sherlock Holmes inspired character Detective Solar Pons, as well as the Judge Peck series. Derleth became the literary editor of the Capital Times Newspaper in Madison in 1941 and held that position until 1960. He continued to write until his death in 1971.

August Derleth books available at the library

Submitted by Dan@Central

The Historian: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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The Historian: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

Despite good reviews from my coworkers, I held off reading this book because of its length. However, once I dove in I couldn't stop reading it. Right at the beginning of the story a murder takes place and next to the body lies a mysterious letter to whomever finds it. From there the letter finder ensues an exciting hunt to find out the history and truth of Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Blood River: A Journey to Afica's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher

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This tale of adventure and travel was as engrossing as it was educational. Working as a reporter in Africa, the author became obsessed with the exploits of storied explorer Henry Morton Stanley. Stanley, famous for uttering the classic quote, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” when he located the missing explorer along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871, was also the first explorer to chart the Congo River and it’s territories. The second largest river in Africa, the Congo River runs through Central/Western Africa for almost 3000 miles, most of which is surrounded by jungle and wilderness.

Obsessed with recreating the route Stanley took over one hundred years ago, the author started his adventure on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and started heading west across Africa. Assisted by missionary groups, United Nations employees and a pygmy leader, Butcher followed the tracks of Stanley on foot, by motorbike and by dugout canoe. Making his way through inhospitable jungle and terrain ruled by murderous “mai-mai” or Congolese militia, Butcher travels down the Blood River and discovers the “broken heart” of Africa in the process.

Over 1500 lives are lost daily in the Congo from disease, starvation and genocide and Butcher bravely describes the poverty, injustice, corruption, brutality and kindness with an eye for detail and an unwavering voice. This was truly a fascinating read. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Dan @ Central

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

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People from Wisconsin, and especially those from Spring Green, or those who have visited, may find reading about the area and Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life from Mamah's perspective quite interesting. This book is fiction, but I believe historically correct. I enjoyed it and suggest it as a book club discussion novel.

I had only a vague idea of who Mamah Cheney was, and knew even less about her life works and what happened at the end of her life. So as she describes her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright, while Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, I vividly saw the conflicts of a woman needing to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Mamah’s is a remarkable journey that leads ultimately to a very stunning conclusion. Check catalog for availability.

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