August 2010 Archives

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

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In Rachman's debut, The Imperfectionists, his experience as a foreign correspondent and editor aptly shape the jaded lives of his characters. Each chapter is a different person's tale; a few of my favortites:

• The reader who scans every word of every paper, but slowly, so she is more than a decade behind. In her home it is merely April, 1994 and she knows nothing of history beyond that point.
• Obit writer, Arthur Gopal, is sent to Switzerland to interview Gerda Erzberger, an Austrian intellectual. "Claw your way to the bottom, did you?" she asks, but he doesn't mind because this is all he aspires to.
• The Paris correspondent who doesn't realize he's past his prime.
• The female chief financial officer who ends up on a transatlantic flight sitting next to a man she fired.
• A naïve fellow competing for a stringer's job in Cairo who is completely taken for a ride by an older and wiser cohort.

The chapters read like short stories, but intertwine the origins and development of a newspaper in Rome. This dysfunctional group shows a picture of the imperfection that dogs and yet upholds people. Also of interest is the recently published The Room and the Chair by Lorraine Adams; it has a newsroom similar to Rachman's. And, The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault, which is about lexicographers rather than newspeople, but has melancholy characters.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

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As the TwilightMoms and hordes of grown-up Harry Potter aficionados can tell you, young adult lit isn't just for teens anymore. Thrilling plots, compelling characters, and plain old good writing transcend the little "YA" stuck on the spine label. Here's how to find teen books just too good to miss - whether you're 16 or 60.

Check out the Printz Award , given annually for excellence in young adult literature. These books tend to be exceptionally well-written. This year's winner, Libba Bray's Going Bovine , manages to be both wacky and profound at the same time. Think Douglass Adams, but with fewer aliens and more smoothies.

Hilarity will ensue. Seriously.

There are also some great lists available online - apparently, I'm not the only one harboring an obsession with great teen lit! Try this article from Library Journal, this list on Amazon, or these suggestions on GoodReads.

And, of course, you can ask your friendly neighborhood librarian. We love to talk about fantastic books for any age! Case in point - even with all these fabulous resources to help you find a teen book you'll love, I can't help mentioning one of my all-time favorite series. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins contains some of the most gripping, absorbing books I've read in ages. (The final installment, Mockingjay, was just released on August 24th. Place your holds now!)

I've been waiting for this book for months!

So if you've never ventured into the YA area of your library, or if you're a closeted YA fan afraid to whip out the newest Laurie Halse Anderson on the bus, be liberated! No matter what your age, there's a whole world of riveting, poignant, funny, creative teen lit for you to explore.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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Chick Ink : 40 Stories Of Tattoos -- And The Women Who Wear Them. Edited by Karen L. Hudson.

No longer are tattoos just for rebels and soldiers. More and more men and women are getting them and society is slowly starting to accept this art form. Perhaps? I found the stories in Chick Ink unique and fascinating. Each chapter focuses on a different woman who speaks about her reasons for permanently adorning her skin with images and words. At the end of the book I had one lingering question. How was the author able to limit the book to only 40 stories?

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Here's a book that makes geography fun. Cedarburg resident and PBS documentary producer Michael J. Trinklein lists dozens of serious and wacky state proposals in alphabetical order with maps superimposing planned borders over current states. While some proposed states never stood a chance for statehood, others made geographical, economic or cultural sense. Chuckle over the stories behind Assenisipia, Half-Breed Tracts, Yazoo and many more, and the movers and shakers, and charlatans behind them. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo

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Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.


After fifteen year old Liz takes a journey on the SS Nile she arrives at Elsewhere, the "place" where people go after they die. Her first task while in Elsewhere is to go to Binoculars #219 and watch her own funeral as it takes place down on Earth. She absolutely hates her new "life" and cannot let go of her former life, so she goes to the Binoculars everyday to watch her family and friends as they live out their daily lives. However, Liz has new responsibilities now that she is dead. Even though she is only teenager, she needs to get a job, earn money, learn to drive a car, and make new friends. Full of happiness and sadness, Zevin writes a sweet story about accepting the lot you are given and truly loving those around you. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith


In this, one of the latest biographies of the Sixteenth President of the United States, by the author of the literary exposition, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Mr. Lincoln's secret (until now) avocation as vampire slayer is detailed. When Lincoln's mother becomes a victim of a vampire and passes away, he resolves to free the world of the vampire menace. It becomes a lifelong quest, as he soon learns that there is more at stake than a personal vendetta; the very freedom of every living man, woman and child in America is at risk. With help from a shadowy group of "good" vampires calling themselves "the Union," Lincoln learns that vampires have become entrenched in the economic, social and governmental affairs of the South, their plan being to eventually make the whole United States a vampire nation in which all the living are enslaved. The plans are thwarted when as President, Mr. Lincoln leads the North to defeat the vampire plotters and their Southern puppets. Taken from Lincoln's (until now) secret diaries, Mr. Grahame-Smith has written a worthy historical exposition of events in, and leading up to, the Civil War, and a fascinating biography of our Sixteenth President and lifelong vampire vanquisher Abraham Lincoln. Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Mary @ Central

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As number 54 on the hold list for Aimee Bender's bestselling The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, I'm getting a little antsy. If, like me, you're looking for something to tide you over until your copy is available, try these similar reads.

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Savvy, by Ingrid Law

Like Rose Edelstein in Lemon Cake, members of the Beaumont family have unusual talents, or "savvies." Just days before Mibs' 13th birthday, when her savvy will awaken, her father is terribly injured. Believing her savvy will be able to save him, Mibs and her quirky, heartwarming companions set off on a journey to reach him. As they cross the country, they struggle with the magical and real aspects of growing up and finding your own voice - at any age. The thick dialect of Savvy is well-crafted, and should appeal to readers who enjoy Aimee Bender's lyrical style. Though technically a children's book, I highly recommend this bittersweet adventure for adult readers.

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Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

Craving a sensual foodie read? Tita de la Garza's cooking in Like Water for Chocolate is inseparable from the heated passion between her and her lover, Pedro. The magical realism that pervades Lemon Cake has strong roots in Hispanic literature; in that tradition, Like Water for Chocolate expertly blends the real and the fantastical to create an atmosphere in which love, loss, desire, and the power of food are heightened to the boiling point. If you haven't read Like Water for Chocolate since high school, now may just be the time to pick it up again.

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The Other Family, by Joanna Trollope

While Trollope's firmly realistic characters have no supernatural gifts, their deep emotional struggles will resonate with readers who were moved by Rose Edelstein's haunting sadness. Most of Trollope's books focus on the pains, joys, and complexities of family relationships, another similarity to Lemon Cake. She employs impeccable prose to draw you intimately into the worlds of struggling families and soul-searching characters. The Other Family is her newest novel, but you'll want to explore her earlier books as well.

Submitted by Audrey @ Central

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Joy of Geocaching by Paul & Dana Gillin

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According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, people, including some from as far away as Denmark and South Africa, showed up at Regner Park in West Bend for the third annual $1,000 Cache Ba$h Geocaching Mega Event, held the previous day.

Geocaching is a new emerging sport that has been labeled as a high tech version of hide-and-seek. You use a GPS receiver to locate containers of various shapes and sizes called geocaches. These geocaches are hidden in a particular area in waterproof containers. Using your computer, the location is uploaded on a geocaching website, and the game begins,

This book by the Gillins is an excellent introduction to this new sport. Everything you need to know to get started, and how to play the game, is found in this new book. The Joy of Geocaching: How to Find Health, Happiness and Creative Energy Through a Worldwide Treasure Hunt is filled with interesting and funny anecdotes that reveal the reason this sport is exploding in popularity.

Submitted by Marion Kusnick, Sports Librarian for Read @ MPL.

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Elementary, My Dear Readers!


Late 19th century English literature supplied the world with iconic literary characters such as Dracula and Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame), but few have had such a huge impact on popular culture over the past one hundred years than "consulting detective" Sherlock Holmes.
Introduced in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes went on to appear in 60 short stories and novels. Created by Scottish physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes has become forever associated with deductive reasoning, forensic science, a large pipe, a Deerstalker hat and spectacular disguises. Along with his physician sidekick (and exploit chronicler) Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes became that generation's version of CSI. From his rooms at 221B Baker Street in London to the desolate moors of the south of England, Sherlock Holmes always nabbed the bad guys with a flair that may have made him the most popular fitional detective in literature.

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In addition to the sixty wonderful Sherlock Holmes stories, the famous detective appears in numerous stage, film and television adaptations. The most famous of these is the fourteen film series starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Made between 1939 and 1946, these films are fun, witty and exciting. Sherlock received a film update in 2009 in a Guy Ritchie film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. PBS aired a spectacular series of Sherlock Holmes television features in the 1980s and recently, PBS has begun developing a new television series starring the pipe smoking detective.
Sherlock Holmes films available through the library.

Submitted by Dan@Central

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Packing for Mars by Mary Roach


Mary Roach makes the morbid fun. Her quirky, conversational tone makes any subject, however strange - from cadavers to orgasm in paraplegics - a light, enjoyable read. Yet she's never disrespectful of the objects of her scrutiny. Roach's wit is always grounded in scientific study, expert opinion, and acute observation. Unlike the stereotypical scientist, Roach doesn't shy away from her own reactions to what she sees. Her personal involvement with the subject is what makes her writing so honest and intimate, appealing even to those who don't normally read non-fiction. I got a huge kick out of her debut novel, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and I can't wait to read her newest book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Want to get an advance taste of its subject matter and idiosyncratic humor? Watch this preview-esque video, created by Roach's publisher W.W. Norton. Submitted by Audrey @ MPL Central

In Cheap We Trust by Lauren Weber


Timely and very entertaining overview of the history of frugality in America; to some it might seem more of a lost art than a misunderstood virtue. Sage advice from Ben Franklin about a penny saved is a penny earned to our parent's lectures at the dinner table that money does not grow on trees, can be easily drowned out by the incessant marketing of the consumer culture that we live in. Plain living and high thinking are no more was the lament of William Wordsworth over 160 years ago and still seems applicable today. The author certainly recommends a return to frugality for the sake of our planet and our personal and financial well being. Rather than a lecture about the evils of overspending, the book offers a wry look at the cyclical popularity of living within or below our means throughout the course of American History. From the puritanical view that linked saving money to saving your soul to the time of the Depression when cutting back was not a choice but an absolute necessity for survival.
In a nod to the "going green movement" of today her advice is simple: if you want to save the planet, the most effective thing that you can do is stop buying so much stuff. Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Tom O. @ MPL Central


In this book Sandbeck provides an engaging explanation of why many cleaning products pollute instead of clean and why some microbes are necessary to keep us healthy. She provides concrete examples of how to simplify the way you run your home by using fewer chemical contaminants and enlisting the helpful agents that mother nature provides to keep us healthy. She asserts that the companies who market household products have been selectively using scientific data to make us afraid of our own natural environment and encourage a consumer culture that is making us sicker. Some of her suggestions would be hard for the average person to adopt but many of her suggestions are practical and less expensive than the products being marketed to us. Interesting scientific facts were delivered in an upbeat tone that is designed for the layperson. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Anna @ Central

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand


Beach Read! Beach Read! Literally.
A tight-knit group of four couples living on Nantucket Island do everything together. They take vacations, celebrate happy occasions, and even spend most Sundays together. They even make up a name for their group - The Castaways. Then one beautiful August day, one couple does not come back from a sail that they took to celebrate their twelfth wedding anniversary. Tess and Greg McAvoy die under suspicious circumstances.

How could this happen to them? Tess and Greg were school teachers and well-known in the community. They were the All-American couple raising the lovely twins, Finn and Chloe. As we know by now - not everything is as it seems. Tess and Greg had many secrets.

Now the rest of the couples must deal with their grief and the tragedy, bringing to the surface their own secrets they need to address as they try to figure out who the McAvoys really were.

While reading this book, it reminded me of the summers when I was younger and could read anything I wanted, and watch soap operas (not allowed) if my mom was working during the day. Summer, reading, soap opera all in one book. Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Connie @ MPL Central


A new book by Preston & Child always comes with a plus and a minus - Plus: another great Pendergast outing sure to satisfy, Minus: no matter how long it is, it'll be over too soon. Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast is a singular creation - an FBI agent well versed in the fantastic and macabre, brilliant, eccentric, with a wry sense of humor and impeccable style. The series has covered ancient curses in the New York Museum, serial killers, stolen artifacts, anthropology, strange cults, and the criminally insane - all with great characters and compelling plot. However, Fever Dream delves the furthest yet into the intensely personal and mysterious history of Agent Pendergast. From the shade of the musasa trees in Musalangu, Zambia to the black oaks dripping with Spanish moss in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, the authors weave the story of the shocking death of Pendergast's wife during an African safari. A death he has recently come to find was no accident. Taking along with him the only man he trusts, NYPD Lt. Vincent D'Agosta, Pendergast delves into the murder of his wife - and finds the woman he loved had a past just as mysterious as his own. Throughout their travels the men will search for the secrets behind a lost Audubon print, an extinct parrot, and a family's descent into madness. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Ruth @ MPL Central

Go Traveling

If you've taken a trip up north, gone for a sail, or visited some distant relatives lately, you know a little something about the joys and trials of travel. Can you imagine how much more intense they would be if you had to navigate without roads, waterways, airlines, or railways? Explore the incredibly compelling biographies of some of the most influential travelers in history - the men who forged untamed jungles, unraveled scientific mysteries, and overcame every obstacle to lay out the pathways that connect and define our world.

Prior to the 1800s, scores of ships and sailors were lost at sea because of their inability to determine their east-west position in the waters. Troubled genius John Harrison created the complex tool needed to measure longitude, but his incredible accomplishment was almost eclipsed by his eccentric and obsessive personality. This is one of my favorite books because the man is as intricate and fascinating as the machine. Check catalog availability.

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You've been mis-pronouncing Mount Everest. Really. (It's named after Col. George Everest, pronounced Eve (rhymes with Steve) -rest.) What else don't you know about the thick and wild fever-infested jungles of India, the world's tallest peaks, and the men who risked their lives to traverse and measure some of the most dangerous terrain on the planet? Finding out is an armchair adventure of the finest degree. Check catalog availability.

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When we think of railroad building, we often focus on the great tycoons of industry. Yet Bain weaves their sagas together with the struggles and stories of the regular men and women whose lives were intertwined with the transcontinental railroad - the Chinese and Irish immigrants who built it, and the Plains Indians whose way of life was forever changed by it. Sophisticated and evocative. Check catalog availability.

Share your own travel stories with us! What adventures have you read about, or lived yourself?

Submitted by Audrey @ MPL Central

City of Thieves by David Benioff

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This quick-reading and very entertaining novel tells the story of a Russian teen trapped in Leningrad during World War II, under siege by the German army. Caught out of doors after curfew, he and a Russian soldier recently deserted from the army are ordered to retrieve a dozen eggs for a bigwig's daughter's wedding. Getting the eggs, escaping the Germans, and surviving make this an excellent novel. Check catalog availability.

Submitted by Bruce @ MPL Central

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke


During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Detective Dave Robicheaux searches for the murderer of some looters in the chaos of a devastated New Orleans. As he investigates the shootings, it seems the murdered looters may have invaded the home of the reigning mafia chief and stolen some counterfeit money and diamonds. The more Dave uncovers, the higher the risk to himself and his family by a crazy hitman who is also searching for the lost diamonds. The action unfolds at a breakneck pace in this thrilling drama.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan at Central

Tokyo Vice


Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein (c2009)

From 1993 to 2005, Jake Adelstein was a reporter for Japan's largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbun. He was the first American hired for such a position, which gained him entry into many aspects of Japan's culture that are often closed off to foreigners. He primarily covered the police beat - homicides, yakuza (i.e. mob) activity, the sex trade and, eventually, human trafficking - where his gaijin status was either a help or a hindrance depending on the situation at hand. Always hungry for a story, Adelstein piled up both friends and enemies and didn't shy from putting himself in harm's way. Tokyo Vice, Adelstein's memoir of his time in Japan, makes for a gripping read, as long as you don't mind a bit of machismo. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central


"This, the third edition of Le Morte DArthur with Aubrey Beardsley's designs is limited to 1600 copies, after printing which the type has been distributed."

Le Morte DArthur contains hundreds of drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, most, if not all, of which were made specifically for Sir Thomas Malory's text. The first (1485), second (1498) and third (1529) editions vary slightly in the number of drawings accompanying the text as well as number of chapters. Also, the third edition has the original cover design.

The third edition follows "accurately and completely the best text, [and] shall be modernized in spelling and punctuation... [while maintaining] the grammar of the period in which it was written." Interestingly the original manuscript completed in 1469 has never been found.

If you are interested in tales about King Arthur and his court, or would like to view the fantastical drawings by Aubrey Beardsley you can make an appointment to see this 1529 volume of Morte DArthur by calling the Art, Music and Recreation department at the Central Library at 414-286-3000. Here is catalog information for this book.

If you'd like to see other books related to this item, here are a plethora of others that the Milwaukee Public Library holds.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Poetry: Get an earful

You don't read poetry. Stuffy at best, incomprehensible at worst, and irrelevant either way, contemporary poetry rarely (if ever) insinuates itself into your heart, or even your dusty I'll-get-to-it-someday bookshelf. Right?

If written poetry seems flat and uninteresting to you, try listening to it instead. Some poetry is brought to life by the voice of the author. Would your favorite song be so darn catchy if you just read the lyrics out of a book?

These are a few of the poets whose lyricism and compelling voices jump off the page. Forget impenetrable metaphors, obscure and pedantic references, or saccharine odes to pretty little daffodils. These women are forthright, politically and socially engaged, and even funny.

Orange and Grape
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Radical. Passionate. Revolutionary.

These are probably not the first characteristics you would ascribe to poetry or poets, but they are often used to describe Muriel Rukeyser and her work. Spanning WWII, the Spanish civil war, the communist witch hunts, and the Vietnam protests, her intrepid voice challenged common perceptions and social injustices. "The Ballad of Orange and Grape" is straightforward, witty, and full of clear and evocatively gritty urban imagery.

Struggling with her role as a suburban housewife and suffering from lifelong mental illness, Anne Sexton used her poetry to plumb the shadowy depths of her body and her psyche at a time when few writers and even fewer women did so. She was also a consummate performer, and her voice in this audio clip is nothing short of spine-tingling. "Her Kind" is a stunningly crafted short poem which challenges many of the expectations and stereotypes imposed on women.

Want more poetry on audio or video? We have spoken word performances on everything from LP to DVD, from Chaucer to Def Poetry.

Submitted by Audrey @ MPL Central




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