April 2010 Archives

Edgar Awards Announced

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The Last Child by John Hart won for Best Novel and Best First Novel went to In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff. For a complete list of nominees and winners click here.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut's literary reputation is as solid as a California Redwood and a recent re-reading of his mid-career novel Jailbird left that tradition firmly intact. The simple plot revolves around the release of Walter F. Starbuck from a low security prison after being convicted of playing a minor role in the Watergate scandal. The decidedly autobiographical sketches Vonnegut paints of Starbuck's life are intertwined with a rather factual history of the Labor Movement in the United States. Funny, witty, harsh and brilliant, Vonnegut's complexity is as simple as life itself.

Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Dan@Central

Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson

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This is the first book by Nicole Dickson. When I began reading Casting Off I was skeptical that it was going to be too simple in nature, not the intellectual type of read that I normally seek out. But again, as in another previous fictional knitting book I read, I quickly became enchanted. Each chapter heading defines a different Irish stitch and/or combination of stitches and how it is constructed. Casting Off is the story of two very conflicted individuals, each who suffered tragic events in their past. These events have left them haunted by their past, each unable to let go and move on with their lives. Rebecca is raising a daughter on her own and overly protective. Sean is a loner and eccentric, with a keen eye for the rapidly changing weather conditions of this small island on the western coast of Ireland. Despite their differences, and Rebecca's wariness of Sean, the two lives intersect in ways neither would ever have believed could happen. As usual with books involving knitting, I am inspired to knit some cables and bobbles! Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

Wedding Bells Are Ringing!

Here is a small sample of books the Milwaukee Public Library owns to help you plan your wedding celebrations. For more books please visit your neighborhood library.

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Wedding Chic : 1001 Ideas For Every Moment Of Your Celebration by Colin Cowie.

Check the catalog for availability.

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Destination Wedding Planner : The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Wedding From Afar by Alison Hotchkiss ; photographs by Thayer Allyson Gowdy.

Check the catalog for availability.

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How To Get Married In Green : Have An Eco-friendly Wedding Without Compromising On Style by Suzan St. Maur.

Check the catalog for availability.

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The Bride's Survival Guide : 150 Mistakes You Should Avoid For The Perfect Wedding by Sharon Naylor.

Check the catalog for availability.


Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Homer & Langley : A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

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Trust E.L. Doctorow to unearth a nearly forgotten tidbit of American history and spin a fascinating story -part fiction, part fable - around it.

Brothers Homer and Langley Collyer were fabulously wealthy recluses who made headlines in 1947 when their bodies were discovered inside their crumbling mansion in New York City. Homer, who is blind and a virtuoso pianist, narrates the story of their lives skillfully interwoven with historical events. Doctorow extends the brothers' story and has them move through much of the 20th century. Langley returns home from World War I shell shocked and transformed by a mustard gas attack and they soon lose their parents to the Spanish flu. Their enormous house gradually becomes a museum - or mausoleum - of objects, new technology and even people they collect along the way. The Collyers fill every cranny with the detritus of popular culture including a Model T Ford in their dining room. Langley's particular obsession is with news and his metaphysical 'Theory of Replacements' as he attempts to compose an ultimate, eternally current single edition of the Collyer newspaper. "To be a Collyer" is a term still used around New York if someone shows signs of being a hoarder. If you're prone to collecting and/or cluttering, be warned!

Check Catalog Availability.

Submitted by Christine@Central

Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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This is the captivating tale of four slave women; Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu. They vacation as mistresses at Tawawa House, a resort in the free state of Ohio with their masters. Each woman's story is told--life on their plantations is described, their children and the relationships they have with their masters and the other slaves. Interesting to me were the 'rules' of the free states as opposed to the Southern states where these women grew up and the idea that some slaves would vacation with their masters.

Although this story is fictional, an author's note indicates that Tawawa Resort did exist near Xenia, Ohio. It opened in 1852 and closed in 1855. Historians believe that the number of slave entourages were a reason for the decline of the resort's popularity. The land was sold to the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and they established the Ohio African University in 1856. Due to the Civil War, enrollments declined and the campus closed. The property was purchased again in 1863 and reopened as Wilberforce University; it continues to be the nation's oldest, private, predominantly African American university. It is believed that the children of the unions between the slave women and the slaveholders were among the early students at the university. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Happiness is...

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Through the mysterious serendipity of Milwaukee Public Library's holds system, I got these two books at the same time, both examining the idea of "happiness" through opposite lenses.

I wondered why Gretchen Rubin even felt a need to be happier - great husband and family, great job, great apartment in New York City - but she did. The Happiness Project traces her year long quest to change her life for the even-better. She intersperses timeless philosophical observations on happiness with her month by month account of specific steps she took to make improvements, from clearing clutter to 'fighting fairly' with her (extremely patient) husband. She also blogged about The Happiness Project, so some content seems repetitive and familiar from similar 'self help' books, but her honesty about her privileged lifestyle is welcome, as is her hope that everyone should be having more fun.

In her new book Bright-Sided Barbara Ehrenreich offers a well reasoned and provocative take on the institutionalization of the cult of optimism and happiness that has been part of the American psyche from Emerson to Joel Osteen and his ilk. She argues that putting a positive spin on everything from breast cancer ("the best thing that ever happened' says one woman) to perpetual prosperity and successful military outcomes leaves us blindsided by stark reality when the rosy forecasts don't pan out. One of the most hilarious sections recounts her time at enormous - and expensive - motivational rallies where speakers convince attendees that any problems they have can only be the result of a failure to "think positively." Because Ehrenreich had cancer, her insights into the 'bright- sided' and pink-ribboned attitudes towards a deadly (and highly politicized) disease are especially challenging.

Submitted by Christine @ MPL Central

Floodmarkers by Nic Brown

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Less a debut novel than twelve short stories linked together, Floodmarkers deftly describes fictional events that happen to the slightly strange inhabitants of Lystra, North Carolina while Hurrican Hugo ravages the small town on September 22, 1989.
The stories are grouped into four parts of the day with common characters appearing in a number of the stories as the day progresses and events unfold. Funny, serious, tragic and exhilarating, these stories run the gamut of emotions and ultimately comprise a story of triumphant and flawed humanity. Though all twelve stories could be read and enjoyed individually, when joined together, they tell the story of a community as a whole, which is somewhat reminiscent of what Sherwood Anderson did in the classic American novel Winesburg, Ohio. Though this piece isn't on the same plateau as Anderson's work, it certainly bears an enthusiastic read from fans of short stories.

Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Dan@Central

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sunday, April 11th is Holocaust Remembrance Day and PBS has a week of programming all based on books. The week begins with a new adaptation of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

Monday, April 12th is a documentary about Arabs who protected Jews during the Holocaust.

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Check catalog for availability.


Tuesday, April 13 is Blessed Is the Match, a documentary based on the diary of Hannah Senesh, who, at age 22, parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe to save the Hungarian Jews. Check catalog for availability.


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Wednesday, April 14 is Worse Than War, a documentary about state-sponsored genocide, from the Holocaust to Rwanda to Darfur, based on the book of the same title. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central


The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee

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The lives of June Han, Sylvie Tanner and Hector Brennan all intersect in this story which spans from 1930 Korea to the 1980's in Italy. In the early 1950's, June, a refugee from the Korean War, is brought to an orphanage where Hector, an ex-GI from New York, is working. Sylvie is the wife of Reverend Tanner and helps him oversee and teach at the orphanage.

As Lee's narrative flips back and forth through time, the stories of all three are told and their harrowing pasts are gradually revealed. Now, June is dying and wants to find her son which means reconnecting with people she has tried hard to forget. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

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