November 2009 Archives

Mists Of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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This is the book that made me fall in love with the King Arthur legends. After reading this I sought out everything I could find about him from fiction to non-fiction to original works written in Old English and French. Bradley writes the ultimate blend of the classic King Arthur legends. Her research is impeccable. She fully develops rich characters and the beautiful courts of Camelot and Avalon. I've read this book several times and can't recommend it enough to those who have even the slightest interest in King Arthur. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Myths of American history are often idealized caricatures of reality, and a great example of distorted history is the first Thanksgiving dinner celebrated by pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. The picture of a clean white tablecloth over a long table filled with a cornucopia or two and an abundance of all types of food being eaten on clean plates with silverware is simply not true. The pilgrims actually used their hands to eat the deer, ducks, geese and stews that comprised the famous dinner shared with peaceful Native Americans.
Philbrick, the acclaimed author of In the Heart of the Sea, sets the story straight on many popular, but false, depictions of the real pilgrims. After fleeing England, and subsequently Holland, for religious purposes, the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and immediately infuriated the local natives by stealing their food and belongings!
In addition to describing life on board the Mayflower, this book covers the history of the Plymouth Colony from 1621 through King Phillip's War with the Native Americans in the 1670's that claimed thousands of lives and eventually shaped modern Massachusetts. Relive the brutal reality of the 17th Century New World in this fast paced interpretation of American history.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan@Central

Game of Kings by Michael Weinreb

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Game of Kings: a year among the geeks, oddballs and geniuses who make up America's top high school chess team by Michael Weinreb (c2007)

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Edward R. Murrow High School in New York City is a bit of an anomaly. It's a public inner-city school with a large minority and immigrant population, but the classroom and curriculum structure are both unconventional and unrestricting with independent study at the forefront. Students either sink or swim in such a free environment, but those that do swim often thrive. Such is the case for the Murrow chess team. Murrow has seemingly come from nowhere to win numerous city, state and national championships and now stands out as a dynasty in a field of opulent opponents.

In Game of Kings, Weinreb tags along with the Murrow chess team for a year and documents their individual and collective ups and downs and the ever-present quirkiness that surrounds it all. The team is comprised of such an odd lot of true characters that you can't help but root for them all the way. Check(mate) catalog for availability.

Note: The title for the first printing of this book was The Kings of New York.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

National Book Award Winners

The National Book Awards celebrate the best of American literature. Their purpose is to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America. Here are the 2009 winners for fiction and nonfiction. For a full list of finalists and winners please see The National Book Awards.

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In 1974 Manhattan, a radical young Irish monk struggles with personal demons while making his home among Bronx prostitutes, a group of mothers shares grief over their lost Vietnam soldier sons, and a young grandmother attempts to prove her worth. Check catalog for availability.

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A biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism, documenting how Vanderbilt helped launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Whistling In the Dark by Lesley Kagen

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Set in Milwaukee during the summer of 1959 and narrated by ten year old Sally O'Malley, Whistling in the Dark is a sentimental tale of family, trust and commitment.
Sally and her sister Troo spend their summer playing red light, green light with their friends on Vliet Street and visiting Sampson at the Milwaukee Zoo until a murderer starts preying upon the little girls in the neighborhood. The murders almost become second fiddle to the insights and imagination of the ten year old storyteller. The Milwaukee locale and references to landmarks like the Uptown Theater and Washington Park add to the nostalgic feel of this warm story.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan@Central

Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates

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In the front of Ms. Oates' latest book there is a bibliography of the books she has written over the years. With a few exceptions, Oates has written a book a year starting in 1964. Her latest is Little Bird of Heaven. When I started this book, I didn't think I was going to like it. It's not a particularly nice story. But as I continued to read, I got absorbed into the story, and into the lives of the characters, particularly of Krista Diehl, a little girl when the story begins, caught up in a tragic death that changes her world and breaks apart the lives of those she loves. The story is also told from the perspective of Aaron Kruller, another innocent victim of the tragedy. And because of the tragedy, their lives are thrown together, albeit haphazardly. So, in a sense, it's also a love story. As an aside, when I was in college, I remember Oates was one of the authors we studied in a literature course. I don't remember what we determined about her writing, but an interesting characteristic that runs rampant in this book is her use of very long sentences. One sentence started mid page on one side of the book and finished a few lines down on the next page. I think this adds somewhat to the tenebrous tone of the book. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

Huge by James W Fuerst

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Eugene "Huge" Smalls, an eccentric but brilliant 12 year old boy who admires the detective stories of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, takes on a "case" of his own after his grandmother's nursing home is vandalized and he vows to find the guilty party. As Huge meanders through the 1980's landscape of suburban New Jersey, he misinterprets, misconstrues and misbehaves until the case is solved. Though the plot is sketchy at best, I liked Huge in the same way I liked Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Huge reeks of confused adolescence as only a grown adult can understand. Unlike other teen detectives like Encyclopedia Brown or The Hardy Boys, Huge is a foul-mouthed, brash kid that I may have grown up with! Or maybe he was me. Either way, this is middle school for adults. Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Dan@Central

Secret Son by Laila Lalami

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This is the story of Youssef El Mekki, who lives in the slums of Casablanca with his single mother. She has kept many secrets from him, but he's about to enter college and join a fringe Islamic group and he's curious and determined to find out the truth about his family. His mother has always maintained that his father died in an accident, but Youssef finds out he's alive, and is intent on meeting him. Will his father accept him? Does he have siblings? Will he prefer his father's lifestyle over that of his mother? All these questions and more are answered as Youssef comes of age amidst the turmoil of change occurring in Morocco. Check catalog for availability.

Knitwits

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The Joy of Sox by Linda Kopp. There has been much ado with sock knitting in recent months, thanks in part to the magic loop method (knitting two pair of socks on one long circular needle). Although those who have been bitten by sock knitting will tell you it has nothing to do with the magic loop method, but simply the fun in being able to create something so practical, warm and sized to your foot. I thought this book stood out from some of the others because of the nice tutorial section in the beginning that discusses the anatomy of the sock, sizing, and the three main methods of knitting socks (using double pointed needles, two circular needles and one circular needle). Then, once you get past the tutorial (optional, of course) you will find patterns that range from anklets, toe thongs, mosaic, self striping, lacy and over the knee. In all, the book is fun to look at and if you're a serious knitter like me, you'll be chomping at the bit to knit some socks! Check catalog for availability.

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AwareKnits, by Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong, contains knit and crochet projects for the eco-conscious stitcher. All natural fibers are used in the patterns, including yarns that are made from soy, corn fiber and bamboo, to name a few. Animal yarns mentioned, such as alpaca, are raised organically. There are scarf patterns, glove patterns, sock patterns, baby patterns (including a diaper pant pattern!) and patterns for both sexes. The authors include nifty tips for being green in your daily life, and there is even a bag pattern that incorporates plastic bags, with instructions on making your own plarn (plastic yarn). I think everyone will find something in this book, including small enough items that will make nice holiday gifts. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

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This is the first book in this series featuring Catherine LeVendeur, a very unlikely detective. She serves as a nun at the Convent of the Paraclete. Sharan Newman, the author, writes a thoroughly researched novel about 12th century religion, politics and everyday life. Along with that she weaves in a complicated mystery and the love story of Abelard and Heloise. Catherine's story is not for someone looking for a light read. This book weighs heavily with historical facts which may turn out to be overwhelming if the reader is not prepared. Having said that, as someone who has an interest in medieval Europe, I enjoyed reading this well written historical mystery.

Check the catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Essex County Trilogy by Jeff Lemire

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Essex County Trilogy by Jeff Lemire (c2007 & 2008)
Canadian graphic novelist Jeff Lemire has received numerous awards and accolades for his Essex County series, and with good reason as this trilogy has an equal appeal to both teens and adults. The main story line moves back and forth between several generations of the rural Canadian farming and hockey playing Lebeuf family. The characters are immediately likeable and the overall mood is sentimental without ever being cloying. Themes of coming-of-age, growing old, isolation and family obligation abound. Both well-written and well-drawn... if you've never read a graphic novel before, this might be a fine place to start. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

Blame by Michelle Huneven

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Patsy MacLemoore wakes up in the drunk tank with no recollection of how she got there. Finally, a police officer starts reading the homicide report to her; Patsy killed two Jehovah's Witnesses while driving drunk and turning into her own driveway.

Prison time is served and Patsy finds sobriety while embracing her guilt. Once released she returns home, but things are different now, she intends to do good things and go to AA meetings, but it turns out that the blame that's hardest to live with is the blame she's assigned to herself.

I read this book quickly because I was gripped by the story. It could so easily have come off as preachy, but it didn't to me. Instead it was more philosophical and I also liked that the dialog was written without punctuation, it gave Patsy's story more clarity. This is the first novel I've read by Ms. Huneven and I look forward to reading her other work. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

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