June 2010 Archives

Soulless and Changeless, both by Gail Carriger

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Gail Carriger's debut novels Soulless and Changeless (check catalog for availability) were so much fun that I had to go out right away and get the second one to read before I even finished the first. Both novels are in Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate series. Set in a parallel Victorian steampunk England where vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other creatures are contributing members of society, Carriger's main character has to navigate not only the dangers of the supernatural set but also the murky depths of high society.

Alexia Tarabotti has to contend both with the discomfort of being half-Italian in English Victorian society, as well as concealing the fact that she is preternatural. Preternaturals are not well known either among the ton or the supernatural set and can revert a supernatural back to their human state simply by touching them. Alexia deals with the supernaturals in a way that befits her station and refuses to tolerate rudeness or impropriety.

In Soulless, after Alexia accidentally kills a vampire, she must join forces with Lord Conall Maccon who happens to not only be an earl but is also the Alpha werewolf of London's werewolf pack. Alexia finds Lord Maccon to be rude and forward but is strangely attracted to him. For his part, Lord Maccon finds Alexia to be headstrong and frustrating. Together they must overcome their personality conflicts to determine why some vampires are disappearing and new ones are appearing.

In Changeless Alexia (now Lady Maccon) must once again team up with her now-husband Lord Maccon. As Alexia tries to adjust to her new relationship to Conall, the supernatural population of London is afflicted by a plague of mortality. Because of her abilities as a preternatural Alexia is, of course, blamed for the unfortunate incident. At Queen Victoria's request she looks into the incident only to find that its cause may be tied to her husband's past.

These two books were great fun and a great summer read. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion, and am eagerly awaiting the third installment in the series.

Submitted by Rose @ MPL Central.

The Red Door by Charles Todd

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In 1920, Lancashire England, a woman lies murdered in a house with a red door. At the same time in London, a man suffering from a mysterious physical breakdown, is taken to a private clinic and suddenly disappears. Set in a time when England was recovering from the terrible grief that followed the Great War, these two seemingly unrelated events intersect.

The Red Door is the twelfth book in the series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge, the shell shocked trench war veteran, who goes through his post-war life accompanied by the almost constant taunting voice of the dead Corporal Hamish MacLeod. Suffering from what today would be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Inspector Rutledge must solve both cases while struggling to regain his position in Scotland Yard and his sanity. The Red Door is a mystery rich in the social details of England between the wars. Perfect summer beach and pool reading.

Submitted by Sandy @ MPL Central

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

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When an author's writing makes me thankful for my ability to read and feel by gliding into another person's world, it is truly remarkable. I'm still reeling from the experience of this novel and look forward to hearing what other people think.

This is the story of a young girl named Rose who discovers that she can taste other people's deepest emotions and secrets through the food that they prepare. This changes her perspective on the world. And while she tells us her story we learn about her brother and mother and father. Her brother Joseph wants nothing more than to be left alone, to disappear from the limitations of his life. The two understand each other only as siblings can, even though they refuse to accept, at least at first, the peculiarities of the other. It takes George, Joseph's brilliant friend, to release both of them. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central


The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

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There are more Chinese restaurants than McDonald's, Burger Kings and KFCs combined. Join Jennifer 8. Lee on her readable culinary quest for the "greatest Chinese restaurant." Follow her as she tracks down the winning Powerball lottery numbers of 110 winners on March 30, 2005 to a Brooklyn fortune cookie company. She discovers the myths and actual origins of chop suey, fortune cookies and take-out cartons and how they helped Americanize Chinese food. See the seldom-seen business side of the Chinese restaurant trade and how generations of immigrant restaurateurs strive for the American Dream for themselves and their children. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

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Two kids with the same name, liv­ing in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, dec­o­rated com­bat vet­eran, White House Fel­low, and busi­ness leader. The other is serv­ing a life sen­tence in prison for felony mur­der. Here is the story of two boys and the jour­ney of a generation. Told in alter­nat­ing nar­ra­tives that take read­ers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of sur­pris­ing redemp­tion, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a gen­er­a­tion of boys try­ing to find their way in a chal­leng­ing and at times, hos­tile world.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick

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Robert Goolrick begins his memoir of a 1950's Southern childhood, with the death of his father - a man he both loved and hated. After the funeral, Mr.Goolrick slowly opens the door into a world dominated by his self-absorbed, alcoholic and abusive parents; meandering between scenes from his childhood and his adult life. The book's light tone becomes increasingly ominous as the author describes his own alcoholism, drug abuse, mental breakdown and suicide attempt; culminating with the revelation of shocking sexual abuse at the hands of his own father.

Mr Goolrick's story is powerful and disturbing. It is the story of a child's lifelong attempt to win the love of parents who wouldn't love him. Ultimately, it is a survival story. Robert Goolrick is also the author of the best selling book A Reliable Wife. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Sandy @ MPL Central.

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

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Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest who works with gangs in Los Angeles. His efforts led to the founding of Homeboy Industries, an organization that employs gang members. This book tells the story of his 20 years of ministry through heartfelt vignettes of compassion, sorrow and redemption. The author is able to give us hope even as he tells his tales of abuse, neglect and poverty. By the end of the book, it seems clear that many of society's problems could be solved with unconditional love and respect for others. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion gave me a lot of think about.

Submitted by Pat @ MPL Central.

The Devil's Rooming House by M. William Phelps

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In 1911, Amy Archer-Gilligan was known to her neighbors in Windsor, Connecticut as "Sister Amy." Seemingly a kind, devoutly Christian woman, she took the frail and elderly into her home to live out the rest of their days. In reality, "Sister Amy" was a calculating murderer who poisoned her residents (and two husbands) with a brew of lemonade and arsenic. She is believed to have murdered sixty-six residents during the early twentieth century. M. William Phelps details the story of Amy's greed and deception, which led to her becoming America's most deadly female serial killer. This shocking true tale inspired the play and film Arsenic and Old Lace. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jennifer @ MPL Central

The Blueprint by Kirk Franklin

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The seven-time Grammy-winning gospel artist describes the harrowing family challenges and lack of role models that hampered his youth, his dedication to helping others and his street-wise perspectives on such topics as faith, family responsibilities and African-American identity. He says it's "a transparent approach to talking about issues -- from marriage to politics to sex and religion -- and it's from my perspective. Not from a Princeton, mainline, protestant, evangelical or liberal viewpoint, but from a 2010 Christian moderate, with swag."

Check catalog for availability.

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History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme, attributed to Mark Twain.
In food for thought for today's policy makers, Christopher Catherwood believes two decisions by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prolonged World War II to the detriment of the United States and Great Britain. The first was the diversion of scare British and Commonwealth forces from an offensive in Libya to disaster in Greece in early 1941, which delayed final victory in North Africa until 1943. The second was postponing D-Day from 1943 to 1944. He thinks invading western Europe rather than Italy in 1943 was logistically possible and could have ended the war earlier. American and British armies could have met the Russians in Poland rather than Germany, which would have been better for the western Allies in the Cold War that followed. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo

The Passage by Justin Cronin

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Rendered a latest test subject in a covert government experiment, abandoned six-year-old Amy is rescued by an FBI agent who hides them in the Oregon hills, from which she emerges a century later to save the human race from a terrifying virus. Suggested for fans of Stephen King's The Stand , Cormac McCarthy's The Road and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.

Check catalog for availability.

This is being billed as the book of the summer--don't miss it. Also, reportedly, the first of a trilogy. Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central.

James Castle

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James Castle: A Retrospective by Ann Percy (c2008)

Self-taught artist, James Castle (1899-1977), was born deaf and could very well have been an undiagnosed autistic. Living the bulk of his life in rural Idaho, and with such handicaps, he received little in terms of formal education and was highly lacking in conventional communication skills. Left to his own devices, Castle spent every waking moment obsessively creating art... creating art from whatever materials he could muster... often with discarded paper and cardboard serving as canvas and a sharpened stick tipped with a soot and saliva mixture serving as pencil. While some would call his art "naive", there is something undeniably smart and focused and visionary about it, especially when viewed en masse. A DVD is included with the book that further documents Castle's life and work. Check catalog for availability.

Additional information and samples of Castle's art can be seen here.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

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