Friday, November 30, 2007

[Book Review] WORLD OF PIES by Karen Stolz

Fiction/Coming of Age

Andrea Bledsoe reviews WORLD OF PIES by Karen Stolz (HyperionBooks, 2000)

In this first novel by Karen Stolz, we meet Roxanne. She is a 12 year-old tomboy growing up in the small town of Annette, Texas. The year is 1962, and Roxanne is about to experience a great many changes in her life--both historically and biologically.

Like in many other small towns across the country, people feel safe in keeping their doors unlocked and shopping at the local mom and pop storefronts. The families in Annette are close-knit, even though there seems to be a sense of restlessness among the older kids. They feel almost claustrophobic in their small town, and Roxanne is no exception.

Seeing world-changing events, such as JFK’s assassination and the Vietnam War, through a young woman’s eyes is very moving. Stolz also brings these tragedies closer to home with the family’s reactions. For instance, Roxanne’s mother, Christina, is having a wardrobe dilemma and states, “I bet Jackie Kennedy never had these problems...Her husband hasn’t even been dead a year and I am worried about that?” Another example of tragedy upsetting the family is when Roxanne’s cousin, Tommy, loses an arm while fighting in Vietnam.

I enjoyed this book because I had never read any of Karen Stolz’s books, and it is always fun to discover “new” authors. Also, as Roxanne states, “my family always took solace in eating,” so the author included all the recipes of the comfort food the family ate throughout the novel. The final reason I enjoyed this book was reading how a small town community comforts one another in the face of worldwide disaster as well as rejoices with one another in triumphs.

Andrea Bledsoe, Poplar-White Station Branch Library

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Book Clubs @ Your Library, December 2007

The Memphis Public Library & Information Center sponsors book clubs at many branches and at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Here's a list of the titles that will be discussed in December. For a book club's contact information, click the link for that branch or call (901) 415-2700.

December 2007

Book Lover's Book Club

East Shelby Branch Library
No meeting in December

Central Readers' Club

Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
Monday, December 17, 7:00 p.m.
Book selection: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cordova Book Club

Cordova Branch Library
Tuesday, December 18, 12:00 p.m.
Book selection: Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

North Renaissance Men's Book Club

North Branch Library
Saturday, December 15, 2:00 p.m.
Book selection: One Prayer Away by Kendra Norman-Bellamy
Learn more about this book club

North Women's Book Club

North Branch Library
No meeting in December

Parkway Village Book Club

Parkway Village Branch Library
Wednesday, December 12, 2:30 p.m.
Book selection: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Second Saturday Book Club

Highland Branch Library
No meeting in December

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

[Book Review] GIFTS by Ursula K. Le Guin


Beth reviews GIFTS: Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt, 2004)

This young adult book “fell into my lap” after I finished reading Garden Spells, and it just seemed the perfect title to read next. Gifts is about a group of people who live in the Uplands and have special abilities—mind powers. These powers are passed from father to son or mother to daughter and each clan has their own power. Gry can communicate with animals, but, unlike her mother, refuses to use it to call the animals to the hunters. Orrec’s line has the power to “unmake” any living thing—from grass to animals to people. With Orrec’s mother being a lowlander, there is a fear his power will not work—however, it turns out to be something even worse! For the safety of those around him, Orrec chooses to wear a blindfold and hide his gift, but will it be enough?

This beautifully crafted book had me ordering up the sequel, Voices, the next day! I can’t wait to read it and the continuing journey of Orrec and Gry.

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming Attractions for December

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
(and already on your library shelves!)

Many books are made into films each year. Here are a few films coming out this month based on books you can find on the shelves of some of your local library branches. Click on the title of the film to be taken to the official website of the movie and if you're interested, click on the name of the book it is based on to see which locations have the book available.


Film: The Golden Compass
Book: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Film: Atonement
Book: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Film: I am Legend
Book: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Film: The Kite Runner
Book: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Film: P.S., I Love You
Book: PS, I Love You by CeCelia Ahern

Film: Charlie Wilson's War
Book: Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile

Film: Persepolis
Book: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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Friday, November 23, 2007

[Book Review] GETTING MOTHER'S BODY by Suzan-Lori Parks


Doris Dixon reviews GETTING MOTHER'S BODY by Suzan-Lori Parks (Random House, 2003)

It took me some time to finish this review of Suzan-Lori Parks' impressive debut novel. Here's the issue that stumped me: how do I talk about this book in relation to the African-American fiction titles commonly requested at my library? The answer: I can't.

Getting Mother's Body is not urban fiction. Although there is some "drama," this novel, set in the 1960s American Southwest, is more character-driven than many popular titles. It's not inspirational fiction, either. The book opens with a sex scene in which the main character wonders what her lover has done with her panties. This morning, I finally realized that I should focus on the book's universal appeal. It's a story of how characters jostle to overcome bad decisions and hardscrabble circumstances.

Billy Beede is in trouble. Sixteen and pregnant, she's too often motivated by pride, as when she quit her job at the hair salon. Even though the owner admitted that Billy brought in most of the customers, she'd still refused to pay the young woman more money. It's been six years since the death of Billy's mother, Willa Mae. Billy lives with her Uncle Roosevelt and Aunt June, who run a gas station in a small Texas town and are very poor. She sleeps on a mat behind the service counter.

Billy dreams of a new life with the father of her baby. He promises to wed her, but first she must meet his sister, who lives in another town. Billy makes the trip by bus. In the box on her lap sits a beautiful white wedding gown that the teen finagled from the soft-hearted owner of the local dress shop (Billy had learned to run cons from her mother as they traveled the Southwest in a red convertible, a gift from one of Willa Mae's many "husbands"). At her destination, she learns that her lover is already married, but was too much of a coward to tell her himself.

What to do? Billy has always discounted the stories people told about the "treasure" buried with her mother. Hmm? If she can recover the jewels, she'll have enough money to get rid of the baby and start a new life.

Willa Mae is buried hundreds of miles away in Arizona. When Uncle Roosevelt and Aunt June receive a letter stating that the grave site will soon be disturbed to make way for a grocery store, they too decide to claim the treasure. Roosevelt, a former preacher, wants to build a new church and June wants to purchase a prosthetic leg. Billy, Roosevelt and June drive to Arizona in a truck that Billy "borrows" from Willa Mae's last husband, the transgendered Dill Smiles. Dill pursues the trio, vowing to shoot dead anyone who disturbs Willa Mae's grave.

Why did it take so long to write this review? I spent too much time worrying about genres and categories (After reading an earlier version of this review, one coworker said that Getting Mother's Body sounded like "Southern Gothic" to her). For me, the magic of the book lies in its "African-Americanness" (the language, gestures, and situations that seemed familiar) and in its larger project of grappling with what it means to be human. In that way, Parks' novel could be placed within a long trajectory of African-American literature, a tradition that some critics may argue is being eclipsed by some of today's most popular titles.

With humor, compassion and an ear for the musicality of language, Parks gives voice to one-of-a-kind characters. Although Billy Beede is the main character, I found the tragic stories of her uncle and aunt even more compelling. Despite often being disappointed with one another, they treat other with kindness and respect. At different points, Roosevelt and June are motivated by altruism, selfishness, desperation or love. For example, their trip to Arizona is inspired in part by their desire to ensure a proper re-burial for Willa Mae. Well into middle-age, these two people still wrestle with tough questions about how "to be." Sixteen-year-old Billy has two excellent role models.

Doris Dixon, Raleigh Branch Library

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

News and Notes

One critic hopes that Denis Johnson's winning a National Book Award will help the author reach a much wider audience. "[Johnson] may be the one American writer of his generation (the generation raised on Vietnam and Woodstock) who consistently writes with that overarching standard of engagement, who's not playing games but going after something fundamental, using literature to get at the essence of who we are" [via Confessions of An Idiosyncratic Mind].

Did Lily Bart, the heroine of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, commit suicide at the end of the novel? A letter, recently rediscovered within a first edition of the novel, offers some clues to this literary mystery.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

[Book Review] A MAN OF MEANS by Diana Palmer


Dean Moore reviews A MAN OF MEANS by Diana Palmer (Silhouette Books, 2002)

The story begins with Meredith Johns leaving a wild Halloween party. On her way home, still dressed in a skimpy burlesque dancer's costume, she encounters a well-dressed man being attacked by two other men. Making lots of noise and with the element of surprise, she frightens the attackers away. She then proceeds to tend the man’s wounds and borrows his cell phone to call for help. In this way she meets Rey Hart. He is one of five brothers who run a Texas cattle ranch. At the hospital, she calls the Hart Ranch and tells Leo, Rey's brother, about the attack. Leo wakes the pilot of the ranch’s private jet and travels to Houston to take care of his brother. At first Rey and Leo both are suspicious of Meredith. In fact, they are more than suspicious. They are vicious. A large part of the mystery of this novel is found in Meredith’s true background and career.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...The Hart brothers have lost their cook. And, they really love homemade biscuits. Due to serious personal and family issues, Meredith must take some extended time off from her regular work. Rey becomes aware of Meredith as a possible interim cook and invites her to take the position. She accepts the offer hoping for a brief break from work and family stress. In spite of the unpromising beginning between Meredith and the Hart family, romance soon blooms.

This fast-paced romance features strong character development, exciting relationships and a realistic story line with a wonderful ending. Although not written as a mystery, A Man of Means certainly contains a strong element of suspense.

Dean Moore, Frayser Branch Library

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Monday, November 19, 2007

News and Notes

Hoping to boost sales, publishers continue to target book clubs [New York Times].

Coverage of the National Book Awards from NPR.

More on the legacy of Norman Mailer [NPR].

Worth Reading provides a useful summary of an LA Times article about the greying of American fiction (registration required to access original article).


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

[Book Review] SOMEONE TO LOVE by Jude Deveraux


Jesse Marshall reviews SOMEONE TO LOVE by Jude Deveraux (Atria Books, 2007)

Although three years have passed since the suicide of his fiancée, Stacy, Jace Montgomery is still far from reconciled to her death. Jace does not believe that Stacy committed suicide, and he certainly does not agree with the pervasive idea that she took her life because she could not bring herself to break off their engagement. His discovery of a photo of Priory House in Margate, England, bearing an enigmatic love note to Stacy, leads Jace to travel to Margate and to purchase the expensive but ugly estate. He is convinced that the house contains the answer to the mystery of Stacy’s death.

Jace quickly discovers that Priory House is haunted by the ghost of Ann Stuart who, like Stacy, is supposed to have committed suicide on the eve of her wedding. Jace feels that finding out the truth about Ann Stuart’s death will lead him to understanding Stacy’s death also. He is joined in his investigation by his attractive neighbor, Nightingale Smythe, a former war correspondent and local journalist.

I recommend Someone To Love to readers who enjoy fast-paced reads with familiar characters. It is character centered, includes multiple plot lines, and focuses on romantic relationships. The plot also contains supernatural elements.

Jessie G. Marshall, Business and Science Department

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

[Author Obit] Norman Mailer, 1923-2007


"(CNN) -- Norman Mailer, the outspoken writer whose prize-winning works made him a towering figure on the American stage for more than 50 years, is dead. He was 84.

Mailer died about 4:30 a.m. Saturday at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, his literary executor, J. Michael Lennon, said.

Author of The Naked and the Dead, The Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song, Mailer was probably the most famous of the generation of writers who came of age after World War II -- he was certainly the most colorful, and most pugnaciously so.

He wrote constantly: novels, screenplays, articles (he was a key figure in the 'New Journalism' movement of the 1960s), poems, polemics. He co-founded the Village Voice. He was married six times."

Read Full Article

Check the Library Catalog for Norman Mailer

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

[Book Review] A LICK OF FROST by Laurell K. Hamilton


Beth reviews A LICK OF FROST (Meredith Gentry Series, Book 6) by Laurell K. Hamilton (Ballatine, 2007)

Half-human and half-faerie, Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court (the court of darkness) is a former L.A. private investigator now turned possible Queen of the Unseelie Court. To become Queen, Meredith must become pregnant by another faerie—one of her guards. In fact, trying to have a baby has become her full time job! Then Lady Caitrin of the Seelie Court (the court of air and light) claims to have been raped by three of Meredith’s guards. The King of the Seelie, Meredith’s uncle, cannot punish those of the Unseelie court and the current Queen of the Unseelie court will not. He turns to the humans for redress. Meredith must strive to prove her guards innocent, keep the Queen of the Unseelie court and the King of the Seelie court happy with her, and continue on her quest for the throne. But is the throne worth it all? Meredith must consider the true costs of being Queen of the Unseelie court.

I enjoyed this book, and others by Laurell K. Hamilton, because it is pure pleasure reading for me. I feel no “real life” connection to the world of faerie. I become immersed into a land of magic and creatures that I can only dream about. To me, this is the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Other Books in the series:
1. A Kiss of Shadows
2. A Caress of Twilight
3. Seduced by Moonlight
4. A Stroke of Midnight
5. Mistral’s Kiss

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

[Book Review] SILVER PIGS by Lindsey Davis

Fiction/Mystery, Historical

Jesse Pool reviews SILVER PIGS by Lindsey Davis (Crown Publishers, 1989)

Silver Pigs is the first novel in Marcus Didius Falco mystery series. Generally, I'm not much a of mystery reader, but a customer who shares a passion for some of my favorite authors recommended the series to me, so I thought I'd give this book a try.

This is a hard-boiled detective story with a twist. Falco is a private informer in ancient Rome. He's 30-years old. He rents a one room apartment which doubles as his office on the 6th floor of an apartment building, which is bad for business since anyone who might want to use his services would have to climb six flights of stairs to see if he's in. When he's late with the rent, which is fairly often, he can expect a visit from gladiators who are employed by his landlord as collection men. In addition to the gladiators, he has to be on the look out for his mother, who is constantly tidying up his room and running off any flute girls he may bring home for the evening.

Falco's luck changes one afternoon when a gorgeous young lady of 16 runs into him at the Temple of Jupiter. It goes from "bad" to "worse". The girl is the daughter of a senator and she is being chased by four thugs who had recently kidnapped her.

Her name is Sosia Camillina, and she confides in him that there is a plot to overthrow the emperor Vespasian being paid for with stolen silver smuggled in to Rome from Britain. The silver is in the form of ingots, or "silver pigs" as they are called. It is illegal for anyone other than the government to own one, so when one comes into Falco's possession, he has to be careful about where to hide it until he can be certain of who he can trust in the government in order to turn it in.

Falco is ready to walk away from the case, but when Sosia Camillina is murdered and it looks as if no one will answer for it, he feels compelled to see the case through, even though it means going to Britain. Falco has been to Britain once before, as a young soldier, and hated every damp, cold minute of it. To make matters worse, in order to find out about the scheme, he must endure the wicked tongue of Sosia's beloved cousin Helena Justina as well as work undercover as a slave for several months in the silver mines.

When he has gathered enough evidence of the plot, Falco accompanies Helena Justina back to Rome. The pair must be careful to avoid getting killed by the conspirators they are trying to unmask while they try to discover who murdered Sosia Camillina.

In addition, romantic tension between Falco and Helena Justina has developed over the long trip home from Britain, which troubles Falco because of their difference in social station.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Davis paints a vivid picture of ancient Rome and ancient Britain while giving the reader an action-packed mystery full of developed characters, romance, intrigue, and even a chase scene on chariots.

Jesse Pool, Highland Branch Library

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

[Book Review] GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen

Fiction/Women's Fiction

Beth reviews GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen (Bantam, 2007)

Perhaps it is from being raised on a farm in the southern Appalachians, but the depiction of earth magic in Garden Spells seemed completely natural to me. The thought of families having “legacies,” normal. My Nanny and Mammaw (grandmothers) always touted something herbal for your ailments and poultices seemed common. Sprained your ankle? Wrap it in strips of brown paper bags, soaked in vinegar. (Yes, it really works!) I’m currently seeking horse shoes to place above the entrances to my apartment—I want to catch my luck. This book, with its earth magic and family legacies, made me feel right at home.

This first novel by Sarah Addison Allen quickly had me immersed in the small town of Bascom, N.C. Thirty-four year old bachelorette Claire Waverley, of the Waverley ancestry, expresses her talent through cooking—she evokes emotions in those who eat or drink her homemade foodstuffs. However, not all Waverly’s appreciate their gifts—Claire’s mother ran away from her gift as does her sister, Sydney. Now, 10 years after leaving home, Sydney returns with her daughter, Bay, to the town she ran away from. As Sydney rediscovers her place in Bascom, she also learns of Claire’s fears of new places and experiences. Syndey's compassion for her sister allows her to discover and accept her own Waverley magic. The sisters slowly grow closer and learn to love each other—which brings with it new possibilities.

Curious as the best way to gain someone’s affection? Want someone to express their love? Sarah Addison Allen has included the Waverley’s Kitchen Journal for you to enjoy.

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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