August 2009 Archives

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

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Ken Masen, in the hospital with his eyes bandaged, awakens to a collapsing society brought upon by a green meteor shower that left everyone who witnessed it blind. After un-bandaging his eyes, Ken, able to see, wanders through a chaotic London populated by panicked and unruly blind people until he meets Josella, who can also still see. Together, they discover a group of other sighted people led by a disturbed man named Beadley.
While this bedlam is occurring, it seems man-eating plants named triffids, which can walk and communicate amongst themselves, are "walking" amok and preying on the weak and blind!
This fascinating story of morality and evil almost left me rooting for the repugnant plants to eat everybody! Truly a post World War II science fiction classic, Day of the Triffids should be savored for its shockability and pure ol' wackiness! Highly recommended.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

Ted Kennedy, 1932-2009

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Ted Kennedy passed away Tuesday at the age of 77, of the brain cancer he battled through the past year. If you want to read more about his life and accomplishments, try one of these titles:

Last Lion: The Rise and Fall of Ted Kennedy Check catalog for availability.

Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died
by Edward Klein Check catalog for availability.

Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life Check catalog for availability.

Until this year, Senator Kennedy had not written a memoir. But, next month his autobiography, True Compass, will be published. Get your name on the reserve list today: Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

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Jack Griffin is 50 years old and is none too pleased to realize he's inherited his parents' negativity and selfishness. His wife, Joy, is tired of his unhappiness and restlessness. And Jack is doing his best, though unconsciously, to destroy the things he holds most dear.

The story goes back and forth in time, showing us Jack's memories and regrets as well as how he's currently handling things. His father thought there was something magical about the Cape and Jack hopes if he surrounds himself with its beauty, then maybe it will triumph over his own problems. Even though a change of scenery may renew a relationship, it can't fix everything...

Although this novel addresses some serious life changes and issues, it remains easy to read because Russo knows just when to add a comic moment. I loved reading about this year in Jack's life and enjoyed the nostalgia of remembering and thinking about my own family vacations and relationships. Check catalog for availability.


Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central.

Bat-Manga!

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Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan (c2008) by Chip Kidd and Jimo Kuwata

In early 1966, the American TV show Batman (starring Adam West) hit the Japanese airwaves and manga prodigy Jimo Kuwata was commissioned to produce an original Japanese version of Bob Kane's Batman comic strip. The strip lasted for only a little over one year, never reaching a wide audience or being offered in a translated version, and essentially disappeared into oblivion. In 2001, Batman enthusiast and heralded book designer Chip Kidd heard rumors of the strip's existence and diligently sought to track it down. Beautifully presented here are the fruits of his efforts - a translated-into-English assemblage of many of Kuwata's strips. The panels are kept in their original right-to-left format and Kuwata's minimally stark style is a delight. Interspersed are images of period Japanese Batman toys, collectibles and advertisements. It all makes for a densely packed bat-extravaganza. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

This Side of Paradise and others by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Besides penning The Great Gatsby, which is often considered to be one of the most important novels of the 20th Century, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote four other critically acclaimed novels and numerous short stories. Fitzgerald, a member of the 1920’s “Lost Generation” and the unofficial spokesperson for the “Jazz Age,” was a raging alcoholic and was often seen hobnobbing with his wife Zelda amongst the upper crust of New York and St. Paul high society.
Fitzgerald’s success started with the publication of his first novel This Side of Paradise in 1920. The novel is written in three distinct parts that explore the romantic and mental maturation of a young Midwesterner named Amory Blaine as he attends Princeton (like Fitzgerald did himself), serves in WW1 and suffers romantic rejection in New York after the war.
Blending poetry, letters, free verse and traditional narration, Fitzgerald offers a glimpse into the world of Amory Blaine and the “Roaring Twenties” with masterful skill that foreshadows the literary genius that emerged five years later with the publication of The Great Gatsby in 1925.
Due to heavy debts and increased alcoholism, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood in the late 1930’s to write scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was during this time that he wrote The Last Tycoon and a collection of short stories named The Pat Hobby Stories. He died of a heart attack in 1940 at the early age of 44.

Submitted by Dan@Central

Get Caught Reading--Obama Does!

President Obama’s been caught reading by the press pretty often since May 2008 - though more during the campaign than the first six months of his presidency. Here are five titles he's been reading. For a complete list see the Daily Beast. There are twelve entries to date--a year's supply of book club selections?

What Is The What by Dave Eggers Check catalog for availability.
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Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan Check catalog for availability.
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The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter Check catalog for availability.
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Collected Poems, 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott Check catalog for availability.
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The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria Check catalog for availability.
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Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

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Labor Day weekend is just around the corner and 13 year old Henry is lonely and bored with watching TV, reading and daydreaming. In Holton Mills, New Hampshire his only companion is his long-divorced mother, Adele and his hamster, Joe. Adele seldom leaves the house and although Henry gives it all the energy he can, she is still miserable.

Then, just before Labor Day, a puzzling thing happens. A guy named Frank shows up, bleeding, no less, and asks Henry for help. The next week brings some invaluable lessons for Henry, like how to throw a baseball, what jealousy and betrayal feels like and perhaps most importantly, what real love is.

Try this novel if you like Ian McEwan or Nick Hornby. Maynard tells her tale with poignancy and watching Henry as a teenager and as the man he later becomes as a result of one blistering and unexpected weekend is breathtaking. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron

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Portland, Oregon homicide detective "Skin" Kadash, out on medical leave while fighting bladder cancer, is asked by his partner to look over some of her case notes on a few suspicious suicides of local prominent men who are also fighting cancer. It seems all the suicides have a common link with Kadash's doctor. As Kadash fights "the rat clawing his stomach," he also fights for his life against his own police force and a shrewd killer. This tale of personal hardship, relentless dedication to duty and deceit offers fans of wisecracking, flawed detectives a morsel of fine Noirish fiction worth lighting up.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan@Central

Shirley Jackson: Horror Stories!

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First published in The New Yorker magazine in 1948, The Lottery is as shocking a short story as any I’ve read. Set in a contemporary village, The Lottery refers to an ancient custom that calls for a human sacrifice each year to ensure a good harvest. The contemporary setting, when mixed with the ancient barbaric practice of human sacrifice, offers a chilling statement about traditions in culture. Beautifully written and with a wonderful eye for detail, Jackson crafts a feeling of doom and dread that ultimately erupts in a flash of violence. If you read one short story this year, this would be a great one to choose!

The Haunting of Hill House is genuinely a scary story. Shirley Jackson writes with such subtlety and precision that a feeling of apprehension, unease and dread slowly built in me page by page. The Haunting of Hill House never relies on predictable clichés or “in your face” bombastic horror to scare the beans out of the reader; instead, Jackson uses psychology, intensity and implied horror to pack a wallop.
Eleanor Vance, a lonely woman who has spent many years caring for her invalid mother, receives, along with a few other people who have had paranormal experiences in the past, an invitation from a Dr Montague to stay at Hill House to study "supernatural manifestations."
The gradual psychological unraveling of Eleanor amongst the strange noises, turning doorknobs and ghostly apparitions is truly an exquisite study in implied terror. Masterfully written and truly scary, this fine novel deserves a read from any fan of psychological horror.
This novel was also filmed twice: once in 1963 and again in 1999. The 1963 version, directed by Robert Wise, utilizes the same technique of implied terror that Jackson did, and is almost as successful. After you read this fantastic book, check out the equally scary 1963 film.

Shirley Jackson films and stories

Submitted by Dan@Central

2009 Hugo Awards

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Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. They were first awarded in 1953, and have been awarded every year since 1955. The awards are run by and voted on by fans. The Hugo Awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, a famous magazine editor who did much to bring science fiction to a wider audience. Gernsback founded Amazing Stories, the first major American SF magazine, in 1926. He is widely credited with sparking a boom in interest in written SF. In addition to having the Hugo Awards named after him he has been recognized as the “Father of Magazine SF” and has a crater on the Moon named after him.

This year's Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress can be found in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-sixth Annual Collection. The focal point is Henry Erdmann, a retired physicist, who takes the role of detective in figuring out mysterious ailments linked with visions and apparent mental powers that the residents begin to experience. There's a theme of human evolution and transcendence, but there are also moments of character conflict. Check catalog for availability.

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Do you still rave about that one mind-blowing concert you were at back in 1984? Or 1976? Or 1993? I still regularly boast to anyone who will listen about a Blue Oyster Cult concert I experienced many, many years ago. It was a life changing event for me. It wasn’t just the music that etched itself into my mind. BOC was great that night, but it was the EVENT! It was my first trip to Alpine Valley in the early 80’s and that about sums it up! After that show, I knew I really, really liked live rock n roll.
In The Show I’ll Never Forget, Editor Sean Manning compiled essays from 50 acclaimed writers about their most memorable concert experiences. Some of the cool gigs covered range from a 1965 Rolling Stones show to a 1985 Rush concert; from a 1970 Nina Simone concert to a 1997 Prince gig.
This book is more a compilation of recollections and experiences than concert reviews and that is what makes these essays so much fun. My favorite essay was about a 1981 Kinks concert and a problem with a jacket and a few security guards!
So throw on your favorite old threadbare concert shirt, turn down the house lights and read these fun essays by the light of your beat up old "encore lighter."
Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @Central

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier.

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Chevalier submerges readers into medieval Europe with this riveting story. The characters come to life revealing every aspect of average medieval life. Chevalier gives a perspective from medieval merchants struggling for a living rather than that of the royalty which much of medieval historical fiction is based. Awkward tensions build between characters and a sense of urgency builds as the weavers rush to complete the unicorn tapestries on time for their patrons. Check catalog for availability.

For more information about Tracy Chevalier and the history of the unicorn tapestries visit the author's website.

A Walk Through the Cloisters text by Bonnie Young .

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For more information about the unicorn tapestries see this book. Check catalog for availability.

The Cloisters : Medieval Art and Architecture by Peter Barnet and Nancy Wu.

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For more information about the Cloisters in general see this book. Check catalog for availability.


Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Big Fish

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Big Fish by Richard Ellis (c2009)
Richard Ellis has written numerous landmark books and articles on the subject of marine life. His masterfully rendered paintings of sharks and whales have been displayed in museums and galleries around the globe. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that his newest work, Big Fish, though catalogued as nature/science would look right at home on the art shelves as well. On display throughout are mesmerizing depictions of the world's largest fish species (including lesser-known oddities such as the Goblin Shark, Greenland Shark and Oarfish) coupled with an illuminating bit of text for each. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

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