January 2010 Archives

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

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If you've ever kept a diary or keep one now, this may be an interesting read for you. Irene America has been documenting her personal thoughts in a diary, but finds out that her husband is reading it. She decides to use this to her advantage and writes entries she hopes will affect him and their rapport. At the same time she starts a separate diary to record her true feelings. Seeing the relationship from several viewpoints is interesting and shows the cracks in the veneer of this marriage in a truly unique way. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

North Country by Howard Frank Mosher

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North Country: A Personal Journey by Howard Frank Mosher (c1997)

Hailing from, and a vocal champion of, the North Country of Vermont, Howard Frank Mosher had long wanted to explore the "north country" of the entire United States. So, to mark his 50th birthday, he did just that and set out on a solo east-to-west coast-to-coast roadtrip across America, opting to hug the U.S./Canada border all the way. The resulting travelogue makes for an enjoyable read as Mosher humbly dabbles in the local history and current state of affairs at varied stops along his chosen route.

Makes me want to hit the road myself... but at this time of year, I think I'll head south.

Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton

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All comparisons to Nick Hornby aside, I found this debut novel from British musician Thornton to be a clever examination of pop stardom, fan obsession and the connections between people who both make and love rock n roll music.
In the late 1980's, at the dawn of "alternative music," high schooler Clive begins a life long fixation with the Thieving Magpies, an alternative band lead by abrasive singer Lance Webster. As both Clive and the Thieving Magpies age and mature, so do the parallels between them. This is a fun book loaded with references regarding the "alternative" and "Britpop" music scene of the 1990's and the fans that made them relevant, but I think the real strength of this novel are the realistic voices and artful storytelling that melds the past with the present, making the future a worthwhile endeavor.

Submitted by Dan@Central
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Driftless by David Rhodes

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The small farming community of Words, Wisconsin comes to life in this lively novel from Wisconsinite David Rhodes. July Montgomery, a solitary, thoughtful farmer, becomes the catalyst that draws the eccentric residents of Words together in friendship, love and respect. As the residents of the small town face tragedy, corruption, disease and financial loss, they also experience love, revelation, trust and hope. As the main characters eke out a living, their lives entwine through hardship until one single event brings them together as a hopeful community.

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Submitted by Dan

Our Noise: The Story Of Merge Records

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Our Noise: The Story Of Merge Records - The Indie Label That Got Big And Stayed Small by John Cook (c2009)

Merge is a Chapel Hill, North Carolina based independent record label that was started by Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance (both of the long-running rock concern Superchunk) back in 1989. What began as a tiny bedroom operation releasing 7" singles and cassettes with handmade packaging, has slowly and steadily grown over the course of the last twenty years into a formidable business that in 2007 released an album (The Arcade Fire's Neon Bible) which debuted at Number 2 on the Billboard Charts. This book details the complete history of Merge and the label's well-rounded roster of bands and musicians (such as Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lambchop and the aforementioned Superchunk and The Arcade Fire). Through d-i-y hard work, honesty and associating themselves only with like-minded people, Merge has defied the odds and continues to grow while major-label record company behemoths have fallen on hard times. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

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Tropper's latest novel is the funniest book I read this year (and possibly the funniest ever written about sitting shiva). After Judd Foxman's atheist father dies, his brothers and sister are astounded to learn his last wish was for them to observe the Jewish tradition of mourning together for seven days, as other friends and relatives visit to pay their respects. The Foxmans reluctantly comply and gather for a week of dysfunctional interaction, both with each other and with an endless stream of quirky mourners with their contributions of food, platitudes, and more food. Bawdy humor, keenly observed human [mis]behavior, sexual adventures and sharp verbal combat follow as Judd tries to come to terms with the losses in his life and his family's secrets and lies.

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Submitted by Christine

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The often overlooked history of the U.S. Coast Guard in WWII is finally given its just rewards in this well researched study of both domestic and overseas actions that the USCG participated in during the war. From fighting Japanese submarines at Pearl Harbor to landing Marines at Guadalcanal; from protecting freighters carrying essential supplies to England from the Nazi wolf packs in the frigid North Atlantic to safeguarding the shipyards in Wisconsin from saboteurs, the USCG played an active and important role in the U.S. winning the war. I found a chapter of personal recollections about duty in the Pacific to be very interesting. Quotations and memories from then active duty Coast Guard, Navy, Army and Marine personnel tell the real story of how important the Coast Guard was to every branch of the military. The chapter on D-Day and the role the Coast Guard played in the invasion of Europe was also engrossing because I had previously assumed that was a Navy operation. Meticulously researched and filled with eye-popping photos, this book will be of interest to military and history buffs.

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Submitted by Dan@Central

Audrey Niffenegger @ MPL Central - January 14th, 7 p.m.

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The Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Present Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, at Centennial Hall on Thursday, January 14th, 7 PM. This free event is being held at the Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall, 733 North 8th Street.

Her Fearful Symmetry is the story of two twins, Julia and Valentina. Julia and Valentina are mirror twins. This means that things are opposite with each other, and in Valentina's case, her heart is located on the right side instead of her left. When their mother's twin sister, Elspeth, dies, she leaves the twins the flat she owned in London, with one caveat: they must live in it for one year and they may not let their parents into the home or to have access to any of her things. You wonder why the secrecy. The revelations that afterward unfold may well leave you speechless. I know I felt a little uneasy. Valentina's heart is not the only thing misplaced. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

Hell: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

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The latest work from Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Olen Butler is a shockingly funny account of newscaster Hatcher McCord's stay in Hell. As McCord anchors the Evening News From Hell, he reports on the exploits of other Hell dwellers including Shakespeare, Dante, Mother Teresa, J Edgar Hoover, and his girlfriend, the beheaded Anne Boleyn! I found this satirical work to be hilarious, but I think enjoyment of this book will be wholly based on personal taste. I suspect half the readers of this book will find it comical and the other half tasteless. I found the utter tastelessness itself to be refreshingly satisfying.

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Submitted by Dan@ Central

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

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Wow! Just when I thought I'd figured out how the three story lines in this novel interconnect, another curve ball would come out of nowhere and change everything. Miles spends years searching for his missing twin brother Hayden; Lucy leaves her small town with her high school teacher days after she graduates; Ryan finds out his whole life has been a lie and disappears. This is an unforgettable thriller that will keep you guessing until the final pages. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter

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Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter (c1966)

Originally published in 1966, this long-out-of-print, should-have-been-classic was recently reissued by New York Review Books with an introduction by George Pelecanos. Hard Rain Falling chronicles several years of the transient, living-on-their-wits ups and downs of orphan-turned-boxer, Jack Levitt, and black pool hustler, Billy Lancing. Both "come of age" as they cross back and forth between sketchiness and normalcy and later find themselves as cellmates at San Quentin. Carpenter's writing is plain, tough and honest, akin (at least for me) to short story authors Raymond Carver and Thom Jones. A great novel that will hopefully find a new audience. Check catalog for availabilty.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

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Always pudgy, husky, chubby, plump or just plain fat, Frank Bruni chronicles his lifelong struggle to lose weight in Born Round. He tries every fad, strategy, diet and work-out regime ever developed, from being a "baby bulimic" to a self-styled "fruitarian" without lasting success.


When he learns he may become the main restaurant critic for the New York Times-paid very well to eat very well-he worries that having to consume and critique enormous meals every day of the week will destroy his last hope of achieving a healthy weight. As his beloved Italian grandmother always told him, "Born round, you don't die square". This fascinating, candid saga transcends the "foodie memoir" genre with honesty, humor and insight.

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Submitted by Christine P

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