July 2009 Archives

Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins


In September of 1921, famed silent movie comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle decided to go to San Francisco for a much needed vacation. He took out rooms at the exquisite St. Francis Hotel and prepared to have a few days filled with prohibition era illegal booze, friends and women. Instead, what he got was a dead actress, an end to his thriving career and an unwanted role in one of history’s most notorious trials.
A Pinkerton detective assigned to investigate the death is none other than future mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, who discovers a link between Arbuckle and notorious publishing czar William Randolph Hearst and his movie star mistress Marion Davies.
Devil’s Garden is an interesting and well written historical novel that deftly intertwines historical fact with the lives of many famous Hollywood stars of the silent era. It even includes a brief interlude where Hearst accidentally shoots his good friend Tom Ince while yachting because he mistook him for Charlie Chaplin, who had been romantically linked to Marion Davies.
This fun book of historical fiction will especially be appealing to fans of silent movies and the stars that appeared in them.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

E. Lynn Harris Dies

Jones.jpg Harris.jpg Memoir.jpg

As you may have heard, E. Lynn Harris died on Thursday, July 23rd while on business in Los Angeles. Currently, no cause of death has been reported. He was 54. He had trouble publishing his first novel and eventually self-published Invisible Life in 1991 and sold it from the trunk of his car. Later, it was picked up by Anchor Books. He continued to write and publish ten New York Times bestsellers. His most recent book, Basketball Jones, came out in January. His memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, was released in 2004.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central


If you’re looking for a finely written work of literature, stop reading this review and look elsewhere. If you are a fan of classic rock n roll, especially of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, then Black Dogs is the literary equivalent of Led Zeppelin IV or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath!
During Led Zeppelin’s 1973 tour, someone stole $203, 000 from Led Zeppelin’s safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel in New York after the band played three sold out shows at Madison Square Garden. (These shows were filmed and were later compiled and released as the movie The Song Remains the Same, which also makes reference to the theft) The thief or thieves were never caught. These events are all true but the rest of this book is pure fiction. Or is it?
The premise of Black Dogs (fondly titled after the famous Led Zeppelin song!) rockingly and often hilariously explores the exploits of a group of long-haired stoners who love Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. They are also inept thieves who rob pawn shops and steal car stereos in between smoking pot and drinking beer. They unwisely steal some very important tapes from a crazy gang of bikers, which ultimately forces them to rob Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin after selling him a 1958 Les Paul guitar which they also happened to steal!
This fictionalized account of the Led Zeppelin robbery was simply a blast to read. I give it a rating of 11 on the amp of rock n roll fiction! This book was a riot!

Check catalog availabilty

Submitted by Dan@Central

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman


Known for novels with morsels of magic, this is no exception and it’s also just a tad creepy at times. In a small town on Long Island we meet Elv, Meg and Claire Story who live with their mother, Annie, after a bad divorce. The girls are quite affected by their father moving on and create a fairy tale world complete with its own language, Arnish.

The three sisters are very close and share an attic bedroom, but eventually the horrors of the real world intrude on the girls as Elv is hurt by a bad man. Claire is with her during part of the event and they vow to never tell anyone. As a result, Elv starts acting out by using drugs, sleeping around and stealing.

This isn’t a happy novel, in fact; it made me tear up a couple of times due to the weighty sadness and culmination of heartbreaking events. But I didn’t want to put it down because there was also a sense of hope, that good would conquer evil, and I was so invested in the characters I needed to know how things would turn out. I’m still thinking of them now… Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central.

The Photography of Gordon Parks


Half Past Autumn : A Retrospective. by Gordon Parks ; essay by Philip Brookman.

Years ago I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Gordon Parks speak about his life and art work. This book captures some of the things he said in that presentation and numerous illustrations of his breathtaking photographs. The composition of his works create a view and feeling into a life or situation that only a true master can convey. I especially find his color photography to be superior. The vivid colors combined with his fantastic artistic abilities take the viewer to a whole new level of experience. I highly recommend this book to art lovers, historians, journalists, and anyone with the slightest interest in photography. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Shirley Jackson Award Winners

The winners of the Shirley Jackson Award, given for “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic” were announced at Readercon in Burlington, MA, on Sunday. Here are the winners in the book categories. The complete list of nominees and winners is available at the Shirley Jackson web site.

Novel: The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
Check catalog for availability.


Novella: Disquiet by Julia Leigh
Check catalog for availability.


Collection: The Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yoko Ogawa
Check catalog for availability.



Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a writer of beautifully brutal and tragic short stories that often portray her “Bible belt” upbringing in Savannah, Georgia through stark religious imagery and a keen sense of decay found in most Southern Gothic literature. A Good Man is Hard to Find, published in 1955, is a stark collection of ten captivating short stories that often feature emotionally troubled or physically deformed characters. The general sense of unease and depravity that exists in these stories is only superseded by the pure genius of the writing itself. The title story describes a family’s deadly encounter with a criminal named “Misfit” while on a car trip. “Good Country People” has moral Joy, who has a PhD in philosophy, change her name to Hulga in response to losing her leg in a hunting accident. Hulga seduces a bible salesman named Manley Pointer (symbolism anyone?) and completes her moral corruption in the process. We find a lack of Southern hospitality towards some Polish immigrants in “The Displaced Person.”
Filled with blatant symbolism, often involving racism, sexuality, poverty, religion and aging, this brilliant collection of short stories is a great starting point for discovering the repressed genius of Flannery O’Connor and her works.

Check the library catalog for Flannery O'Connor

Submitted by Dan @ Central

Julie & Julia

A new movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci and Amy Adams is coming out in August. Foodies and film fans alike will enjoy the memoirs and cookbooks the movie is based on.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (c1961)
As a young wife, clueless about cooking, Julia Child went to France in 1948 with her husband, Paul. Her first meal there – a simple sautéed sole – changed her life. She began learning French, then took cooking classes and eventually wrote the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Its publication in the United States launched the culinary revolution that is still inspiring and challenging cooks today. First published in 1961, this groundbreaking two volume work (written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) contains many basic recipes French cooks knew by heart, but were astonishing to American home cooks of the time. From a simple garlic soup to her exhaustively tested and retested recipe for an authentic loaf of French bread, Julia set out to liberate cooks from what she saw as the tyranny of “home economists” and the marketing of bland packaged mixes and TV dinners. Check catalog for availability.


My Life in France by Julia Child (c2006)
This memoir compiled from Julia’s writings (and published posthumously) displays her sense of humor, keen observations from her many experiences and her passion for the good things in life - all of which makes for a tasty read. Check catalog for availability.

Check catalog for all titles by Julia Child.


Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment: How one girl risked her marriage, her job, and her sanity to master the art of living. by Julie Powell (c2005)
Inspired by Julia, and realizing she was unhappy with her life as she turned thirty, Julie Powell took it upon herself to prepare all of the Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipes in one year. Powell blogged as she went along and while her tales of cooking disasters and triumphs became popular, her real purpose, to rediscover her joy in life and the pleasures of a meal shared with friends and family, was achieved. Check catalog for availability.

Incidentally, the movie Julie and Julia is written and directed by Nora Ephron, no slouch in the kitchen herself!

- submitted by Christine @ MPL Central


The Spanish-American War, fought in 1898, is often remembered for the sinking of the USS Maine and for Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charge up San Juan Hill. These famous events have been widely popularized by historians and pop culture and those details have been gratefully excluded from this book. The focus, instead, is on the daily lives of soldiers, marines and sailors as they fought the war and the minutiae of their experiences. Instead of policy and politics the reader gets first hand accounts of the conditions, food, training and daily existence of the U.S. combatants. McCaffrey makes the war come alive through the eyes of the men who fought it.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


The back story of this debut novel is unsettling: A young, white first-time author, inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Mississippi, sets out to write a novel from the point of view of black maids in the midst of the civil rights era. Hilly Holbrook, a Junior Leaguer, is encouraging white families to build separate bathrooms for their black maids. The maids, frightened and afraid to fight against this discrimination find help from Skeeter, also a Junior Leaguer, but one who is a little more forward thinking.

Skeeter writes for the local paper about housekeeping tips, which is ridiculous because her privileged life has never included the use of stain removal skills. So she turns to her friend Elizabeth’s maid, Aibileen, who tells her what to do to solve common household issues. She gains the interest of a Harper Row editor with the idea of a book based on interviews with black maids about their relationships with their employers. Gaining the trust of the maids is difficult, but once she has that the pace is quick with a lot of tension. Definitely a worthy book club pick. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central.


The Best in Tent Camping - Wisconsin: A guide for car campers who hate RVs, concrete slabs, and loud portable stereos by Kevin Revolinski and Johnny Molloy (c2007)

With the recent downturn in the economy, interest in camping has surged as an affordable vacation and recreation option. Wisconsin abounds with great camping spots and the authors of this guide have diligently scoured the state to offer up the 50 best. Each are ranked in terms of Beauty, Privacy, Spaciousness, Quiet, Security and Cleanliness. Detailed layout maps are provided for each location and specific tent sites are described and recommended.

True to its subtitle, I have used this guide on numerous occasions and have yet to be disappointed. Check catalog for availability.

The library also owns additional volumes from this series covering various other states.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

H.G. Wells Science Fiction Pioneer!


H. G. Wells (1866-1946) was a highly successful English writer, historian, and teacher, but is mainly remembered for his classic and influential works of science fiction. His imaginative and scientific mind created a number of stories that have intrigued, terrified and thrilled readers for over a century.

Wells' works have been widely filmed and one of his stories was indirectly involved in what is often considered to be one of the greatest hoaxes in history. During an episode of a popular radio show on the evening of October 30, 1938, Orson Welles directed and narrated a reading of War of the Worlds, a story of an alien invasion of Earth written 40 years earlier. The radio broadcast was so well done that many people actually believed an alien invasion was occurring as they listened to the terrified Orson Welles perform.

Though Wells wrote many other distinguished works that cover a wide range of topics, I’d like to recommend the following classic works:


When a mysterious stranger appears at a country inn swaddled in bandages from head to toe, the local townspeople become curious, suspicious and terrified. What hideous fate has fallen upon THE INVISIBLE MAN?


When some shipwrecked survivors land on a deserted Pacific island they thought their lives were spared, but instead, they were cast into the living hell that is THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU.


A scientist builds a time machine and travels thousands of years into the future. He finds beauty, but he also finds the monstrous Morlocks! Can THE TIME MACHINE get him safely home?


Can the earth survive a martian attack? Find out in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS!

For these titles and all works by H.G. Wells, including audio books and film adaptations, please click on the link here: H.G. Wells catalog availability.

Submitted by Dan @ Central

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan


Four Smith College dorm mates come together for a wedding four years after graduation. The chapters are told in turn by the characters and as each told her story I was drawn deeper and deeper into their lives. There is a focus on feminism as these smart women learn to love, fight and grow. Reviewers compare it to The Group by Mary McCarthy. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central




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