June 2009 Archives

Havana by Stephen Hunter


The third entry in this historical fiction series featuring Arkansas state policeman Earl Swagger, a Medal of Honor winner during WWII, has the former marine assigned to bodyguard a U.S. congressman who is investigating mafia activity in Havana, Cuba in 1953. As the congressman wades through the debauchery and decadence of Havana without showing the slightest interest in anything related to the mafia, it becomes apparent to Earl that he’s become an unwilling participant in a cat and mouse game between American Intelligence and the Russians. It seems an upstart orator named Fidel Castro has been making a name for himself. One faction wants Castro dead, the other wants him as a puppet ruler and the mafia just wants everyone to leave. Earl, tired of being manipulated by fancily dressed politicians and mafia hotheads, decides to let his pistols do the talking. And they speak LOUDLY!

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Rather than writing her Ph.D. dissertation, Connie Goodwin is stuck dealing with the sale of her grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, Massachusetts. Incredible discoveries are found in the years of cobwebs and grime that lead to family connections with the Salem witch trials. Although the story takes some time to heat up, the flames are fanned as the mystery of Deliverance Dane is revealed and finally combusts in a startling ending. I loved it and was pleased to read the author’s notes about what was based on fact and where she embellished the truth. Also interesting; the author herself is a descendent of accused witches Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central


Deborah Butterfield. by Robert Gordon ; introduction by Jane Smiley ; essay by John Yau ; poems by Vicki Hearne.

I first discovered the work of Deborah Butterfield in a Chicago gallery many years ago. Since then I have seen her pieces at museums and galleries throughout the United States. I never fail to find something new and interesting when looking at her sculptures. Her amazing use of a wide variety of materials include: mud, sticks, wood, steel, bronze, various kinds of found objects, and more. Her main subject is that of the horse. All of the pieces I have seen are life size. This book has numerous photographs of her works and one photograph of her studio that I find fascinating. The text gives biographical information as well as information about the process Butterfield goes through to create her sculptures. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Middle East Investigation

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday, Neil MacFarquhar’s new book of reportage on the Middle East, is not to be missed.The viewpoint is somewhat unexpected; MacFarquhar is an Arabic speaking American who grew up in Libya and spent over 13 years as a Middle East correspondent. Currently, he is the The New York Times’ United Nations bureau chief. He writes about the activists and intellectuals trying to liberalize their societies and Islam. Caught between religious zealots and regimes of repression often backed by the United States, reform is their goal. Check catalog for availability.
Posted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell


The topic of presidential assassination is as somber and serious a topic as I can imagine, unless it is being examined by This American Life contributor and essayist Sarah Vowell.
In this book of essays, Vowell explores the sites, history and minutiae that surround the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley in such an engaging and witty way that these black marks on American history seem almost docile.
Vowell travels from museums to plaques to theaters that somehow bring to life the events, places and people involved in each of these three assassinations with such a matter of fact intensity that I couldn’t wait to read her next wry observation. Vowell acts as a literary tour guide through the landscape of presidential assassination with an almost irreverent attitude that is as refreshing as it is interesting. I recommend this book to history buffs, students and anyone looking for a well written social study with enough humor to make learning fun.

Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Dan

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

One of the best debuts I’ve read in awhile, the story opens in the 1980s outside the Panama Hotel in Seattle. The hotel was once a gateway to Japantown, but has been boarded up since the Japanese were relocated to internment camps during World War II. Many families left their belongings in the basement of the hotel for safekeeping and, surprisingly, the items are still there. Henry Lee sees the current owner bring out an old Japanese parasol and is transported back to the 1940s, the war years, when he was growing up with a father obsessed with the war in China and determined that Henry grow up American.

His father pulled strings to have him attend Rainier Elementary, where he was one of only a few minority students. The kids thought all Asians were Japanese, or the enemy, and treated him with contempt. While there, he worked in the cafeteria serving meals and met Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Two outsiders, they found comfort in a friendship with one another, but it was bittersweet, because Henry’s father didn’t approve of him befriending anyone of Japanese descent. Eventually their relationship became one of young love, love tested when Keiko’s family was evacuated to the internment camps.

So now, some 40 years later, Henry is sure that the parasol is Keiko’s and that her family's things are in the hotel basement. He is now a widower, and so has time to comb through the items left there, searching for the Okabe family’s belongings.

The character development is superb and reading about this period in history through their eyes really tugged at my heart. Considering this is an era I haven’t personally experienced, I felt the struggles of Henry and Keiko very strongly. Teachers covering this time period may want to consider including this novel in their plans. Because Henry and Keiko are in their preteens during the war, I think students will relate to them easily. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

The Audies 2009

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The Audies Awards recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. The awards are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA). For a full listing of finalists and winners please see The Audies 2009.

Fiction (tie)

Stephen King, Read by John Slattery
Simon & Schuster Audio/ Recorded Books Check catalog for availability.

Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows, Read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, Juliet Mills
Random House Audio/ Books on Tape Check catalog for availability.


Thomas L. Friedman, Read by Oliver Wyman
Macmillan Audio/ BBC Audiobooks America Check catalog for availability.

Audiobook Adaptation

Garrison Keillor, Read by Garrison Keillor et al.
HighBridge Audio Check catalog for availability.


Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow, Read by Erik Singer
Hyperion Audiobooks/ Books on Tape Check catalog for availability.


Freedarko presents... The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

The Freedarko folks take such a stylistic and delightfully odd approach to covering the modern-day NBA, that their hard-to-put-into-words "almanac" is as refreshing as a cold pop on a hot day. Within are unique and engaging features on select superstars (e.g. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming) and maligned talents (e.g. Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Stephon Marbury), each peppered with atypical, yet telling charts, diagrams and statistics. All presented in a stunningly eye-catching fashion resulting in a compelling sports book that is equally a fantastic example of topnotch graphic design and visual illustration. Bizarre, fascinating and, yes, macrophenomenal.

Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

The Big Sleep/Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler


The Big Sleep/Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Published in 1939 and 1940 respectively, these groundbreaking examples of crime fiction and Noir brought sleaze to the mainstream and introduced one of the great literary detectives, Philip Marlowe, to popular culture. In The Big Sleep, we find hard-boiled Marlowe hired by General Sternwood to thwart a blackmailer. Marlowe's investigation leads to pornography, gambling, misdirection, drugs and murder.

The second Marlowe novel, Farewell, My Lovely, has the shamus trolling through the grotesque and volatile underworld of Los Angeles for the girlfriend of ex-con Moose Malloy. Along the way, Marlowe gets involved in the recovery of a expensive jade necklace. Through the pistol whippings, beatings, murders and lies, Marlowe stomps through the underbelly of L.A. to a twisted climax of deceit and violence.

Both of these novels are considered landmarks in American crime fiction and are staples in hard-boiled detective circles. After reading the novels, why not check out the great film Noir versions of these books! The Big Sleep starred both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in 1946. Check catalog availability and Farewell, My Lovely was renamed Murder My Sweet and filmed in 1944 starring Dick Powell. Check catalog availability

To search for copies of this book click here:
Check catalog for availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson


Amy Dickinson, “Ask Amy” syndicated advice columnist (she took over after Ann Landers) and an NPR contributor, has written this memoir of her life as a single mom. Surprisingly, she has written a book that is not overly obsessed with her. Instead, each chapter reads like a short story that involves the various people in her life and how they contributed to, or have shaped, her life. Initially, her life is split between Washington, D.C. and Freeville, NY (summers), and later Chicago when she becomes “Ask Amy.” Her daughter grows up through the pages, but never once did I feel that I was being fed a “poor me, I’m a single mother” tale. Instead, “the mighty queens of Freeville” (Queens is actually the name of the diner where the whole family gathers for breakfast on Wednesday mornings), which are her aunts, sisters, mother and the town she grew up in form the village that she turns to for advice and guidance. I think Amy writes honestly and in straight-forward fashion. This was a very satisfying and enjoyable read. Check catalog for availability.

Sumitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton


Last year I read Ms. Morton’s debut novel, The House at Riverton and was captivated by her storytelling—her sophomore effort is even better. The characters are unforgettable and as I wound through the twists and turns of the plot I was completely spellbound.

In 1913 a four year old girl is put on a ship headed for Australia. She believes the person who brought her is playing a game and will be back to collect her shortly, however, she is left alone with merely a suitcase and a book of fairy tales. Fortunately, the dockmaster realizes she’s unaccompanied when the ship disembarks and he and his wife take her in, and, when no one comes looking for her, raise her as their own.

On her 21st birthday, her wedding day, they tell her the truth. Nell, as she has become known, is heartbroken and heads to England to attempt to find out who her real family is and who she really is. She finds her way to the Cornish coast, to a place called Blackhurst Manor, owned by the Mountrachet family. Secrets abound within the grounds of the Manor, but due to various unforeseen circumstances, Nell is not able to continue her search.

It isn’t until her death, when she wills a Cottage on the Manor grounds to her granddaughter, Cassandra, that the puzzle starts to come together. Cassandra finds a forgotten garden and deciphers many, many undisclosed facts about her family. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge
The bloody island battles of Peleliu and Okinawa in the Pacific during WWII are described through the eyes of a young Marine from Alabama in this classic war narrative. Studs Terkel was so enamored of this moving memoir that he interviewed the author for his book The Good War. As strongly as the fear and brutality of war are described, so is the compassion and friendship for his fellow Marines. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Dan @ Central

Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton


This is a most interesting love triangle! Laura Rider, wants to become a writer, but currently owns and operates Prairie Wind Farms with her husband Charlie in Hartley, Wisconsin. Everyone in Hartley thinks Charlie is gay, but really, he’s quite gifted and enthusiastic about his sexual expertise with women. Then there is Jenna Faroli, a syndicated public radio show host who moves to town because it’s in between the radio station and the courthouse where her husband works. Laura has listened to Jenna on the radio for years and worships her, so when she moves to town, she can’t wait to become friends.

Laura has told Charlie that she no longer wishes to have a sexual relationship with him and as it turns out, Jenna’s husband hasn’t shown any desire for her since shortly after they were married, years ago. A chance meeting brings Charlie and Jenna together and they begin corresponding via e-mail. But, Laura is afraid Charlie will alienate her with his frivolity and so writes messages herself, but sends them as though they’re from Charlie. Eventually, Jenna and Charlie meet for ‘coffee,’ and things start to spin out of control.

All the characters undergo various transformations as the story progresses and it was really interesting to see everything come together, or fall apart, if you will. This is quite a departure from The Book of Ruth, and A Map of the World, but I enjoyed this sharply observed domestic satire. Check catalog for availability.




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