January 2013 Archives

Siberian Dawn by Jeffrey Taylor

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I think the author may have been a tad off his rocker back in 1993 when he decided to travel 8000 miles across the disbanded Soviet Union because he loves Russia! I love this guy's enthusiasm. Writer Jeffrey Tayler traveled by trucks, trains, trams and sheer determination across snow covered tundra, mud slickened roads, jam packed train stations and hostile hotel lobbies. The pictures his travels paint are not favorable to old Mother Russia, but I found them to be honest, heartfelt and humble. For every slimy bureaucrat he encounters, he meets a nice old lady to offset the negative vibes. He writes of everyday life by regular people coping with the end of communism and a stagnant economy, and of gulags and nuclear waste, tank factories and cheap vodka. Plopping all Tayler's observations together into a vast 8000 mile pot of human soup, we get a vile smell but a taste that is much sweeter after a few sips. Though most of Siberia is frozen solid, Siberian Dawn: A Journey Across the New Russia will warm your soul.

Dan @ Central

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

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The Fablehaven Series is a fantasy series written by Brandon Mull. It includes Fablehaven, Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, and Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison.

When Kendra and Seth Sorenson are sent to visit their grandparents for the first time ever, they expect it to be long and boring. What they soon discover, though, is quite the opposite. Their grandparents are actually the caretakers of Fablehaven, one of a handful of secret preserves around the world where fairies, golems, satyrs, and other magical creatures live.

Kendra and Seth's visit also coincides with a time when preserves are under attack by the Society Of The Evening Star, who are after the 5 artifacts that will open Zzyxz, a prison for demons that, unleashed after millennia, will destroy the world. It becomes the task of Kendra, Seth, their grandparents, and the Knights Of The Dawn to recover the artifacts hidden at Fablehaven and other preserves to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Society Of The Evening Star. Each artifact is well-guarded, so rescuing them is not easy.

While written for early teens, the five books in the Fablehaven series have an all-ages appeal. I found myself wanting to pick up the next book immediately after finishing the previous one. The descriptions provide a clear, imaginative picture. The battle scenes don't get too graphic for the younger readers, but will still hold the interest of older readers. The characters, especially Kendra and Seth, show believable growth throughout the adventures, and the conclusion should be satisfying to every reader.

Cami - Youth & Community Outreach Services

Year Zero by Rob Reid

yearzero.jpgYear Zero by Rob Reid posits that aliens will destroy Earth not because they want to enslave us all to their tentacled will, but because they've accidentally racked up a spectacularly huge amount of debt by illegally downloading Earth's music. It's left up to low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter (not the Backstreet Boy), his indie musician neighbor Manda, and two bumbling alien reality show stars to try and save our planet from imminent destruction. Together their adventures have them encountering deadly alien bureaucracy, otherworldly beings that look like vacuum cleaners, and American record executives more concerned with maintaining profit than the fate of the planet as a whole.

As a smartly satirical bit of wildly outrageous science-fiction, Year Zero is a novel that easily evokes comparison to Douglas Adams' seminal work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. However, this works both in Reid's favor and to his detriment. While Reid is certainly writes in a style that evokes the late, great author, this is his first novel and therefore both his prose and comedic timing pale in such an unfair comparison to one of the modern masters. Outside of such comparison, Year Zero holds its own as a thoroughly funny and fun romp, just barely managing to outstay its welcome as the humor and plot wears thin in the last twenty pages.

Tim @ Central


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The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

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The Painted Girls looks at belle epoque Paris through the eyes of the teenage student dancer who modeled for Edgar Degas's sculpture The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. It was inspired by the true story of the van Goethem sisters of Montmarte and follows Marie, a struggling ballet dancer, and her older sister, Antoinette.

They are left with only their alcoholic mother to care for them after the death of their father and simply surviving is a challenge. To earn money for food and shelter, Marie enrolls in dancing school. All the students work to outshine the others in an effort to attract abonnés, rich men with an interest in dancers. But Marie attracts Degas, who asks her to model for him.

The soul of this novel is the relationship between the sisters, the love that binds them as they live through tragedy and the way 19th century Paris and the world of ballet is described. Fans of Tracy Chevalier, Susan Vreeland, and Melanie Benjamin will find much to enjoy here.

Jacki @ Central

The Séance by John Harwood

seance_harwood.jpgYou may have noticed we're big fans of Wilkie Collins here at the library (check out Maria's and Dan's reviews). There's nothing quite like a gripping gothic ghost story on a windy winter night. I'm not ashamed to admit the haunting black and white cover image was what first drew my attention to Australian writer John Harwood's second novel, The Séance, but it was the promise of an eerie old English manor house, long lost relatives, family madness, and unsolved disappearances that held my interest. Much like Wilkie's tales, The Séance pulls you into the Victorian-era with an unraveling mystery told through multiple narrators. The suspense is gripping and you quickly learn that nothing is as it seems. This is a don't miss for all Wilkie Collins lovers.

Kristina @MPL Central

replacementscover.jpgHave you heard the news? The Replacements are back! Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson recently reunited in the studio to record an EP of covers as a benefit for former guitarist Slim Dunlap. For those unfamiliar with this legendary band, check out Jim Walsh's absorbing account of its history in The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting.

Told in an oral history fashion, Walsh collects interviews from dozens of people associated with the band and the thriving Minneapolis scene of '80s. The 'Mats (as they were called by their hardcore fans) were known for their wild, unpredictable live shows, which could vary between brilliance and utter slop depending on the night. Massively influential, their style and sound echoed throughout the '90s and 2000s. Be sure to get your hands on some of their music if you haven't heard it--the library has several of their albums available!

Brett @ Central


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Who's Reading What & Why?

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One For the Books Joe Queenan
Joe Queenan, Humorist and author of the best-selling Closing Time, presents an offbeat analysis of his own eccentric reading style to explain why he avoids acclaimed books, reads several things simultaneously and refuses to lend out his books.


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My ideal Bookshelf art by Jane Mount; edited by Thessaly La Force
Dozens of leading cultural figures identify the books that most define their ambitions, beliefs and personalities and helped to inspire their achievements. My Ideal Bookshelf includes contributions from Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers.


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Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books edited by Leah Price
Ever wonder what books you favorite author reads? Unpacking My Library features interviews with prominent authors and provides color photos of author libraries and close-ups of individual volumes. Among the thirteen authors profiled are Alison Bechdel, Junot Diaz, and Stephen Carter.

Laura @ Central

lionstale.jpgOne of Chris Jericho's numerous catchphrases is that he is "the best in the world at what he does" (a quote he stole from Wolverine of X-Men comics). Jericho has done a lot, in fact, from pro wrestling across the globe, to touring with his metal band Fozzy, to competing on Dancing with the Stars. It's the first of these achievements that is the focus of his first autobiography, A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex. Covering the time frame of his youth right up to his memorable debut in the WWF (now WWE), the book follows his trials and triumphs, from starting to learn to wrestling in Canada, to trips through Mexico and Japan, to hitting the big leagues in WCW (and all the headaches that the company caused him).

Jericho's writing style is energetic and insightful, but also very honest as well. He doesn't hold back on his feelings about the other wrestlers he encountered on his rise to stardom, positive or negative. It gives the book an earnest feel, which helps when dealing with the often over-the-top and theatrical world of professional wrestling. This book is a must-read for anyone who was a wrestling fan during the late mid-to-late nineties, and an entertaining read for anyone who likes biographies where hard work and a lot of charisma lead to making it to the top. For those wanting to see Jericho in action, check out these DVD titles available from MPL.

Tim @ Central



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Cross My Heart by Carly Phillips

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Lacey Kincaid has worked hard to build Odd Jobs, her very own business in New York. Now she even has enough income to hire more staff. Life is happily busy for her until she gets notice of the death of one of her uncles. She has no plans to return home to claim the inheritance her parents left her when they died. However, if she doesn't go home, her other uncle who is an abusive alcoholic will claim everything instead. Lacey's difficult past is slowly revealed. Her ex-boyfriend returns to help and give her the support she needs. Uncovering her past and reuniting with family turns out to be very dangerous, because someone doesn't want Lacey to receive what's rightfully hers. Who will stop at nothing to get what should belong to Lacey? As you can imagine there are plenty of suspects from which to choose, each looking guiltier than the others as the mystery unfolds in this novel Cross My Heart.

Valerie @ MPL Central


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North Shore South Shore

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The North Shore Line, America's fastest interurban, ended 50 years ago at 2:55 a.m. on a cold, bitter January 21st, 1963. Russ Porter's North Shore South Shore is a slim coffee table book with colorful photos that will bring back fond memories of Electroliners, Silverliners and green cars traveling between Milwaukee and Chicago for its riders. Its versatility as a streetcar in Milwaukee, an "L" in Chicago and passenger train making commuter stops between the two cities could be used by today's commuters. The journey of the South Shore Line, the last surviving interurban, is followed from Chicago to South Bend with photos of long in the tooth interurban cars in the 1960s to new commuter cars approaching the 21st century.

The Central Library has a small display of North Shore Line posters from the 1920s and photos on the 2nd floor and will have a program on Saturday, January 19th.

Van Lingle Mungo @ Central

Ready? Read the Oscars!

The Academy Awards will be presented February 24, 2013 and five of the nine best picture nominations are based on books, which provides a great reading list.

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Lincoln, based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, was nominated for best picture, best director (Steven Spielberg), best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones), best supporting actress (Sally Field), best adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner) and led the field with 12 nominations.


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Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel's novel, was nominated for best picture, best director (Ang Lee), best adapted screenplay (David Magee) and finished a close second with 11 total nominations. Possessing encyclopedia-like intelligence, unusual zookeeper's son Pi Patel sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.


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Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, was nominated for best picture, best director (David O. Russell), best actor (Bradley Cooper), best actress (Jennifer Lawrence), best supporting actor (Robert De Niro), best supporting actress (Jacki Weaver), best adapted screenplay (David O. Russell) and had eight nominations overall. Embracing a philosophy that life is a movie produced by God, neural health patient Pat Peoples endeavors to win back his estranged wife by making strategic sacrifices and coordinating their communications through a depressed widow.


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Les Miserables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, was nominated for best picture, best actor (Hugh Jackman), best supporting actress (Anne Hathaway) and earned eight nominations. This tale follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him.



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Argo, based on the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Alan Arkin), best adapted screenplay (Chris Terrio) and had seven nominations. An account of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis recalls how six of the intended American hostages escaped from Iranian militants and were rescued by the co-author and his unlikely team of CIA agents and Hollywood insiders during a high-risk mission in Tehran conducted in the guise of a movie scouting expedition.


Other multiple-nominations book-to-film adaptations include Anna Karenina in four categories and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in three.

Jacki @ Central

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

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In The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

Fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd leaves Georgia in 1923 and heads to Philadelphia looking for a better life. But, she marries a man who only causes her disappointment. Her firstborn twins surrender to illness, illness that could have been prevented with a few cents. But Hattie moves on and gives birth to nine more children and raises them with determination and bravery, while withholding the thing they desire most, affection. This is intentional; it's to prepare them for any struggles they face later in their own lives. They are to know that they can carry on, even without kindness or love. Through twelve narratives the story of a mother's resolution and the journey of a nation are shared.

Jacki @ Central

D-I-Y Y-U-M

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Feeling ambitious at the start of this new year but need a little direction?

While you're waiting for all the resolutionists to get off your treadmill at the gym, wait them out in your own kitchen and create something from scratch with The America's Test Kitchen Do-It-Yourself Cookbook: 100+ Foolproof Kitchen Projects for the Adventurous Home Cook.

The staff of America's Test Kitchen has worked out all the glitches and given you more than a hundred recipes to make a variety of condiments, snacks, cheeses, cured meats and other delicacies. Best of all, they walk you through their process of discovery, and explain clearly and succinctly why some things worked - and more importantly, why other things didn't.

I love to pore through cookbooks cover to cover and make a list of what I plan to tackle. From this book I've already tried their recipe for hot cocoa mix (What's their secret? White chocolate chips ground in the food processor!) Even with a foolproof recipe, there's always room for experimentation. I love the hot cocoa mix, but made it my own by adding malted milk powder. Maybe my modification will show up in the next America's Test Kitchen cookbook! You can be sure there will be another quality publication coming soon from that trusted source.

Mandy, Youth & Community Outreach Services

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - Lola should be an inspiration to young fashion designers that think big and accomplish what they put their mind to! Lola is a seventeen-year-old that knows what she wants, or so she thinks. Her fathers do not quite approve of her latest flame, but she believes she has found her soul mate, who is an older fellow in a punk band. What makes her unique is her wardrobe. She vows NEVER to wear the same outfit twice and each outfit is chosen carefully to make a daily statement.

If you like chick-lit this will keep you turning the pages. Lola is on top of the world until her old neighbors move back into the lavender Victorian next door to her. Will the twins remember her and forget Lola's past mistakes? She can only hope that Cricket, her first love, will leave her alone and his sister Calliope will not be so sinister to her this time. A stitch in time saves nine may be the healing factor in Stephanie Perkins latest novel!

Katharina, Central Library Children's Room

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National Parks: A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks by Erin McHugh; Art by Neil Aspinall, Doug Leen and Brian Maebius

Featuring an in-depth look at National Parks in each state, this book will make you yearn for warm weather and family road-trips around the country. The book features old travel posters that promote the Nation's greatest parks, like Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Interesting facts on each page accompany illustrations and information like how many acres the park has or how many people visit each year. According to National Parks, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon has 5 trillion gallons of water in the lake on average and only 1 person has been to the bottom of the lake and survived.

Whether you are nostalgic for old camping trips or need inspiration for your next vacation, National Parks will make you daydream of the wilderness that is in our own backyard.

Lizzy, Central Library Children's Room

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

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Being a forty-something fourteen year old, I recently re-read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and found it pleasantly diverting. The timeless story of a family working together for a common goal seems at timed dated, but with a genuine sincerity that I found both warm and endearing.

Published in 1812 and influenced by and possibly based upon Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson is both an exciting adventure story and an instructional manual for Christian based morality for early Nineteenth Century dwellers.

I find the Robinson's heroically romantic as they conquer the island they so luckily find after being shipwrecked. The father comfortably teaches his four boys about hunting and how to do manly things while Elizabeth, the mother, dutifully cooks up whatever the menfolk hunt down after spending the day sewing.

Suggested for those who loved reading about Huck Finn and his friend Tom or Alice in her strange land of wonders or Emma setting up every dang person in her neighborhood. This is simply a good story and I whole-heartedly recommend it to readers of any age.

Dan @ Central

Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

anyonechick.jpg In Anyone But You, recently divorced and forty years old, Nina Askew struggles to make sense of her new single life and career. She's settling in to her one bedroom apartment and is slowly working up the ladder in the publishing world. She decides to get a cute little puppy to liven up her life. However, she comes home from the dog pound with Fred, a depressed basset hound that was on death row. With her best friend's help and encouragement, Nina starts dating, but does not find anyone she's interested in. In the meantime, she passes evenings watching old movies with her neighbor Alex - a younger emergency room doctor. Both love being friends and both are unsure what to do next. Their relationship becomes complicated when Alex starts dating other women and Nina's ex-husband arrives to take her back home.


Valerie @ MPL Central

emperormollusk.jpgEmperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez is as ridiculous as its title implies. The book is pulp sci-fi at its silliest, a series of set pieces that would make for an excellent summer blockbuster or thrilling videogame, but still make for a pretty enjoyable book. Our hero is the titular Emperor Mollusk, a squid-like brainy alien from Neptune who travels about in a robotic body (a description that evokes memories of Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for those of us who were children of the late eighties). Evoking such modern 'reformed' villain tales such as Despicable Me or Megamind, Mollusk is a supervillain thrust into the role of Earth's defender, alongside a colorful cast of supporting characters.

Facing off against giant angry vegetables, massive slime monsters and even the ravenous radioactive brain of Madame Curie (Martinez really has a thing for disembodied brains), the action and humor occur at breakneck pace in the book's brief 300 pages. Thankfully this means the book does not overstay its welcome, though the plot's conceit wears thin by the third act, eventually falling apart entirely in the last few pages. For high-concept (yet surprisingly cliche at times) goofy fun, you can't really go wrong with giving Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain a try.

Tim @ Central

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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In The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Blue Sargent and her psychic mother are sitting through their annual watch on St. Mark's Eve. Her mother is waiting to "see" the spirits pass through the church yard of people who will die in the upcoming twelve months. Something unique happens this year, Blue actually feels a particular spirit for a young man named Gansey, who seems to be one of the "Raven Boys", a nickname used for young men who attend the local Aglionby Academy. Her aunt tells her there are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve - either you're his true love or you killed him. This has Blue in an upheaval.

Soon after this watch the mysterious Gansey makes an appointment to have a psychic reading at Blue's house. Their worlds collide. Gansey and his circle of friends, Adam, Ronan, and Noah join forces with Blue to discover the mystery behind the story of Owain Glendower, a medieval Welsh noble. Gansey will stop at nothing to find him and believes the countryside around Henrietta, Virginia is his final resting place. Murder and intrigue weave through this story to unveil a few shocking plot twists that will have readers clamoring for the next volume!

Katharina, Central Library Children's Room

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

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A young Lemony Snicket is asking all the wrong questions. Where is he going? Stained by the Sea, a seaside town that no longer boarders any water. Who is he with? S. Theodora Markson, the woman Snicket will be assisting for his apprenticeship. What is he doing? Helping S. Theodora Markson return the Bominating Beast statue to the rightful owner. What is a Bominating Beast and who is the rightful owner? That is what you and Snicket must find out. What does the S. in S. Theodora Markson stand for? Silly reader, that's another wrong question.

These are just a few of the questions - right and wrong - that will be answered in the first installment of All the Wrong Questions. The series features Snicket as a boy who leaves his parents (or were they really decoys?) to become an apprentice with an agency we can't talk about. With a mystery that is as complicated as it is wacky, this novel will leave you asking even more questions and anxious for the sequel. Check catalog for availability.

Lizzy, Central Library Children's Room

The Truth About Style by Stacy London

truthaboutstyle.jpgIf you're looking for a way to gain some confidence without having to completely reinvent yourself, you can always revamp your personal style. At least, that's what Stacy London of TLC's What Not To Wear would like you to consider. In this book that's less concerned with the rules of fashion and more of an encouragement to enjoy fashion, the gregarious Stacy explains the benefits of expressing yourself through how you dress.

She highlights nine women who have written asking for help with various issues they're trying to work around. These women are of different ages, shapes, and sizes and Stacy shares the stories of how each of them got in a style rut. As she relates to each of these women, Stacy talks about her own struggles with psoriasis as a child, and eating disorders as an adult. She explains how having personal style can arm you for the challenges you meet by giving you confidence to take with you into any situation. She shares specific tips on where you can shop for certain types of clothing or sizing and offers ideas for people on a budget. With color photos and a "why this works" explanation for each woman profiled, readers can glean ideas that are flexible enough to apply to their own personal style.

Check the catalog for availability.

Submitted by Anna @ Central


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Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss

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Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Maraniss spoke about his highly readable biography Barack Obama: The Story at Centennial Hall in July. He traveled to Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya and Indonesia to find how small steps taken by his ancestors led to and helped shape Obama in ways different than those feared by his critics. He knows more about Obama's ancestors than the president does, who doesn't enter the story until Chapter Seven.

Stanley Dunham's life spanned from knowing his great-grandfather Columbus Clark, who fought for the Union to free slaves in the Civil War to raising his grandson, who was elected as America's first minority, biracial and African American president. Obama met his father only once when he was 10 years old. His father was brilliant, charismatic, self-destructive, alcoholic and physically abusive towards his African and American wives. Maraniss makes a persuasive case that Obama Sr.'s absence from his "Baby Bull's" life probably saved him from child abuse.

Living as a child in Indonesia with his inquisitive and restless mother Ann Dunham and as a teen in Hawaii with his Kansan grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham led Barry, as he was then called, to try to avoid life's traps, find himself and put down roots. In college, some African American classmates regarded Obama an Oreo (black on the outside, white on the inside). Before he moved to Chicago to try his hand at community organizing, his Australian girlfriend Genevieve Cook perceptively wrote that there was a strong, black woman is in his future in her diary. Maraniss said he'll write about that and more about Barack Obama in a second volume.

Van Lingle Mungo @ Central

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