Monday, August 25, 2014

August 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

August 25, 2014 

Elizabeth is Missing
By Emma Healey 

This poignant debut novel is equal parts whodunit and a meditation on memory. It is told from the perspective of an 82 year-old woman suffering from increasingly severe dementia. This narrator, Maud, is living on her own at the beginning of the novel, but a “carer” comes frequently to assist her. She relies on handwritten notes to remember things, but still constantly repeats herself to her daughter and makes cup after cup of tea without drinking it. Many of the things she repeats seem senseless at the time, such as asking where the best place to plant summer squash is, but reveal their startling origins in the end. 

The plot of the novel jumps back and forth in time from the present to Maud’s childhood in war-torn England, and to the disappearance of her older sister, Sukey. This tragic event defines her life in many ways, something she may not fully realize until 70 years later, when she finds herself still investigating. In the present, she is also concerned for an elderly friend, Elizabeth, who she hasn’t heard from in some time. She becomes relentless in her search for Elizabeth, despite her inability to always remember why she is looking for her, or who she is. She goes to her house several times, even sneaking inside once, and also finds out how to contact her son, who she suspects. In her parallel world of memories, she is still looking for her sister, trying to investigate from the disadvantage of childhood. She looks for clues everywhere she goes, collecting ticket stubs and pieces of broken shells in the dirt, and using her naiveté as a screen through which to interview everyone around. 

The characters of the town, their ways of coping with the war, and the town's extreme rationing lend a fascinating historical element to this already rich story. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in nontraditional mysteries or psychology. The texture of Maud’s confusing world is terrifying at times, as a possible eventuality for ourselves or our loved ones, but it also has a lyricism to it that reminds us of the magic of everyday routines. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put this down. 


August 12, 2014 

Inside of a Dog
By Alexandra Horowitz 

“Few celebrate a dog who jumps at people as they approach--but start with the premise that it is we who keep ourselves (and our faces) unbearably far away, and we can come to a mutual understanding.”

Ever since I adopted my dog, Zoe, back in March, I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time in the 636.7 section of our non-fiction stacks. For those uninitiated into the cloistered society of Dewey, that’s the dog book section. Zoe, like all dogs, is partly a mystery. What is she thinking behind those knowing eyes? Does she have thoughts like we do, or is her cognition more of a disarray of olfactory and visual impressions? Can Zoe sense my emotions? Anyone who’s lived with and loved dogs knows that they inspire devotion and fascination in their human companions. Although it’s impossible to learn the truth of a dog’s internal life straight from the source, Alexandra Horowitz gives us her best guess at what it’s like inside of a dog.

Horowitz begins by establishing her credentials. She’s an ethologist, a studier of animal behavior, specializing in canine cognition. More importantly she is a dog person. She peppers this edifying book with personal anecdotes of her beloved dog, Pumpernickel (“Pump”). These stories form the heart of the book. Once we’ve read about the mechanics of a dog’s nose, including the boggling vomeronasal organ (read mega-nose), we then read about the snuffling nose-nudges that Pump used to wake her sleepy human each morning. The book is packed with fascinating illuminations of the dog’s inner life and explains some common befuddling dog behaviors including why they kick and scratch the ground after urinating and what those playful downward-facing-dog poses are all about. Most notably, Horowitz gives readers a glimpse at the dog’s umwelt, “their subjective or ‘self-world.’”

The author also provides her best advice for dog owners: allow your dogs to be dogs. They don’t need to be washed everyday nor should they. Smell is the most important aspect of a dog’s sensory world and it makes up a huge part of their self-identity. They’re dogs…they’re going to bark and sniff butts and do all those doggy things that seem baffling to us (but hopefully not so baffling once you’ve read this book). This is a must read for all dog lovers.


August 4, 2014 

Watercolor for the Serious Beginner 
By Mary Whyte 

Watercolor for the Serious Beginner is an excellent instructional introduction to this artistic medium. The author is an accomplished and well known painter, especially in South Carolina where she resides, working mostly in watercolor. Educated at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, she has published books of her paintings, instructional DVDs, and given numerous workshops. 

This particular book is concise and focused. The chapters are divided into materials, fundamentals, starting, still life, landscape, and figures and portraits. Each section gives pointers on techniques and examples of paintings employing those techniques – both her works and those of other painters. The book contains ample demonstrations which a student can follow. She is admittedly influenced by the work of Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, two watercolorists certainly at the top of that game. The WPL has Whyte’s Working South : Paintings and Sketches in its own collection. This is an excellent mirror of her skills and philosophy as an artist. 

Whether a serious beginner or an experienced watercolorist this book will have something inspirational for you. The other artists she uses as examples might lead to new discoveries and as she points out, “To create a work of art that is refreshing, imaginative, original, and even surprising, you must reach from within. This is not always as easy as it may sound, since it requires you to know yourself well and identify what truly moves you.” 


Monday, July 28, 2014

July 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

July 28, 2014 

All the Light We Cannot See 
By Anthony Doerr 

Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig are two children growing up during World War II whose lives will intersect in 1944 during the Allied bombing of Saint-Malo. Marie-Laure is a curious and dreamy blind girl whose childhood is spent exploring Paris’s Museum of Natural History where her father works as the head of security. Werner is gifted and inquisitive and lives with his sister, Jutta, in a German orphanage until he is selected to attend an elite government school where he is promised answers to his scientific questions, but also told that his mind is dangerous, independent and subversive. 

This novel is rich in symbolism and written in a lyrical, thoughtful tone. Doerr deals with heavy subjects and writes with great detail while remaining abstract about his character’s inner lives. Despite this, the novel is highly readable. Doerr calls his decision to break up the novel into short (two or three page) chapters a “gesture of friendliness” to the reader ( The short chapters aren’t the only thing helping the reader to speed through this thick book. Doerr’s plot is thrilling. Jumping back and forth between 1944 and earlier years, Doerr keeps his audience anticipating the eventual merging of the timelines, when Werner and Marie-Laure will finally cross paths. I found myself at times clutching the book in desperation and at other times staring into space contemplating a poignant sentence. 

This novel will leave you haunted, which is appropriate considering that many of its characters are haunted themselves. Marie-Laure hears her father’s voice in her head advising her during moments of terror. Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel is obsessed with the legend of the fabulous gem he tracks throughout Europe, especially its supposed gift of longevity. Werner cannot escape the image and voice of his sister, Jutta, who becomes his belabored conscience while he is being indoctrinated at school. And then there is Marie’s uncle, Etienne, who suffers from PTSD after watching his brother die in his arms during the first World War. 

Moving, thrilling and fulfilling, this is a great summer reading pick. Read it if you like literary or historical fiction with the smallest dash of magical realism.


July 21, 2014 

By Max Barry 

The online comic strip once had a strip where a man tells his female companion to bring him a sandwich. The woman tells the man to get himself the sandwich. The man then says, “Sudo, get me a sandwich” and his companion immediately gets does so. We are to believe that “sudo” is a magic word; you only need to precede your demands with this word-of-power and everyone will obey you. 

The plot of Lexicon expands on this idea. We are not all susceptible to the same “magic” word or words but, by analyzing an individual’s psychology, a secret organization can classify a person by “segment”, and with that knowledge, take over his mind. And they do this by asking you five simple questions: 

 •Are you a dog person or a cat person? 
 •What’s your favorite color?
 •Close your eyes and pick a number from 1 to 100
 •Do you love your family? 
 •Why did you do it? 

But Wil seems to be immune to every segment’s power words. Nobody knows why that is so, but everyone is hunting him, and using deadly force. Emily, on the other hand, is just the sort of person this shadow organization wants to recruit into their stable of “poets”: highly persuasive young people who can be taught neuropsychology and linguistics, with the ultimate goal of using the poets to control the world. 

One thread of the story follows Wil and the other follows Emily. The reader knows that their lives and the action will converge at some point, and as the body count grows, the sense of anticipation and tension also grows, exponentially. The action is non-stop, the characterization is well-done, and the suspense is a killer. 

If you only read one book this year, Lexicon ought to be it. Not a perfect book - this reader has some issues with the ending - but nearly so!


July 14, 2014 

The Last Kind Words Saloon 
By Larry McMurtry 

The climatic shooting incident at this book’s conclusion supposedly lasted 30 seconds, and it involved names that have since morphed into iconic Western lore. Fittingly, the author also shoots the reader right in the heart at the end of this novel and you, the reader, must decide if this is a good or a bad thing. 

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2014) is another memorable story of America’s mythic West brought to life in empathetic, unheroic but very human terms. McMurtry again proves that he is the literary master of the Western fiction genre, and the astute choice of the jacket art, the painting “The Fall of the Cowboy” by Frederic Remington, the master of Western art, foreshadows the nostalgic sense that permeates the book. 

McMurtry’s West is one where even legends are basically and simply human beings. This novel is short, perhaps approaching a novella. The dialog is almost truncated but the characters are still sharply drawn. If there is anything in the novel dealing with aiming and hitting a target, McMurtry certainly has a good bead on the West. His women would be “victims” by today’s standards and the men would be “abusive”, but this is the wild, wild West and McMurtry boldly populates it with whores, gamblers, thieves, lawmen, rustlers, ranchers, bartenders, settlers, Indians, and life, death, and love. And weather and geography populate McMurtry’s world as effectively as his human characters. 

There is no need to write about plot and character, there is just the enjoyment of reading this wonderful novel. When McMurtry fires that last bullet you will have a chance to dodge it, but you won’t…just go back to the cover art and glance at Remington’s painting.


July 2, 2014

The Vacationers
by Emma Straub

If you're looking for a new beach read this summer, look no further. Emma Straub's previous works, the short story collection Other People We Married  and novel Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, showed her to be a master of literary stylings, but this book is meant more for pure pleasure reading. She tells the tale of a middle- class New York family on vacation in Mallorca. The mother, Franny, is a food writer, and the father, Jim, a recently "retired" editor. (The truth of his retirement comes out to the family in stages). Joining them is their daughter, Sylvia, who will be leaving for Brown University at the end of the summer, and their older son, Bobby, who has moved to Miami and is dating Carmen, a personal trainer who does not curry much favor with the more pretentious members of the family. We also have Franny's oldest friend Charles and his husband Lawrence. Each of these characters has, as you may have guessed, inner turmoil of one kind of another. Sylvia has to figure out who she wants to become in the fall while embarrasedly lusting after her Spanish tutor; Bobby has to admit his financial problems to his family; Franny and Jim are not-so-obviously unhappy together, despite it being their 35 year anniversary. Each of them get a chance to tell part of summer's tale in their own unique voice, all of which Straub describes with startling accuracy. Their character arcs are believable but, at times, heart warming. We also get delicious details of the landscape and the food of Mallorca. This is a quick, easy read that will fit in nicely in between taking dip in the pool and  a turn at the grill.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Classes and One-on-one Assistance for Adults at the Main Library

Technology Classes

Computer & Internet for Beginners (4 sessions)
Fridays, 9:30-11 am, 3rd Floor lab

The first two weeks of this class will build your basic computer skills by teaching the parts of the computer and practicing with mouse and keyboard. The second two weeks will teach you how to go online and perform basic Internet searches. Register on the 2nd Floor Reference Desk, or call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Clase Básica de Computadora (4 sessions)
Martes, 1:00-2:00 pm, 3a Piso, Laboratorio de Computadora

Si necesitas ayuda con computadoras, esta clase es para ti.  Cubrimos la información más básica: cómo usar el ratón y el teclado, abrir programas, y usar el internet para buscar información. Cada mes empieza un nuevo semestre de 4 clases. Para registrarse, llame al 508-799-1655 ext. 3 o registrarse en persona en el escritorio de consulta en el segundo piso.

Open Lab with Staff Assistance (Drop-in)
Wed.  5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., 3rd Floor lab

This drop-in lab designed for people who need extra computer time to work on job applications, Microsoft word documents, or those who need assistance setting up a library account, email, downloading ebooks or audiobooks. No registration required.

 Job Application, Resume, Writing and Business Help

Small Business Counseling
First Wednesday evening each month, Third Floor Study Room

A SCORE counselor provides assistance and answers questions to anyone thinking about or planning to start a business. Register for a one-hour session, or for more information, call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.
College Admission Essays, Resume & Job Assistance, Research Help
Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m., 2nd Floor Ref. Desk

Assistance with writing resumes and cover letters, finding information on a topic, editing, content organization and citations.  Register on the Events Calendar on the library’s website or call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Introductory Grants Workshop
Fourth Thursdays each month, Main Library--Banx Room and Third Floor Computer Lab

This class is for anyone new to fundraising, non-profit grant seekers, and to members of the non-profit community. It will cover grant-seeking basics including what needs to be in place before beginning your search in the Foundation Center, one of the premier resources for grant-seekers. Pre-registration is required; register online at or call 508-799-1655, ext. 3.

Citizenship Interview Preparation

Citizenship Classes
Wednesdays 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Main Library – 1st Floor Computer Lab

This drop-in class will provide help with citizenship questions, practicing the citizenship interview, and learning about the U.S. government, U.S. history, and the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen. For more information, call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Arts, Crafts & Literature

WPL’s Knitting Circle 
Thursdays -starts in September, 2:30-4:00 p.m., Main Library—3rd floor Ellipse

Knitters of all skill levels and other needlecraft enthusiasts are welcome to join us.  All participants must bring their own supplies. If you would like to learn how to knit, please bring size 7 or 8 straight knitting needles and a skein of worsted weight yarn. For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on

Open Drawing Studio
2nd and 4th Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., Main Library—3rd floor Ellipse

Create an artwork based on our still-life displays. Bring your own drawing supplies (a limited supply of pencils and sketch paper will be available). Beginners welcome, but instruction is not provided.
For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on

Book Club
3rd Tuesdays, alternate months, 6:00-7:30 p.m., Main Library---3rd floor Ellipse

Come for a lively discussion surrounding the book selection of the month. Check with staff for title to be discussed, or to request a copy. For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on

*Please check with library regarding holiday schedules, class cancellations or to verify dates.
For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - MA Driver's Permit Practice Tests

New! We are pleased to present free access to, a database where you can practice for the Massachusetts Driver Permit tests. Take these interactive practice tests and pass your exam with flying colors! No more fear of the road test!

Along with the practice tests you can also brush up your knowledge on MA road signs, fines, limits and get answers to frequently asked questions about Massachusetts Driver’s License. The tests for both Automobile and Motorcycle are available along with the Driver’s Handbook for each.

To access this Free database, go to our homepage at and click on 
New! FREE MA Driving Permit Practice Test

Have fun and practice safe driving!

Forensic Mysteries

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We are having another Book Talk on Monday, July 14 from 11 AM - 12 PM at the Main Library! The subject this time is Forensic Mysteries. If you are fan of the genre, or if you are a fan of "Bones" and other TV police series, you won't want to miss it. We will have copies of recommended titles available, and please bring your own favorites to share. Everyone is welcome.

If you can't make it or want to get a sneak peek, take a look at our book list. It is live in our catalog so you can see what's available or place a hold on a book so it's ready for you to pick up.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Powerspeak--Online Language Learning Database

Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language but didn’t know how to start? Or were you once nearly fluent in another language but haven’t spoken it for so long you’ve forgotten almost everything you knew? Do you know any native Spanish speakers who want to learn English? Here’s a convenient solution: With a Worcester Public Library card, you can access a comprehensive online language learning curriculum with Powerspeak Languages. For FREE! 

First, visit the library's website at and click on Online Databases in the left column. You will then see a long list of online resources available to you, categorized by subject. Scroll down to Language Learning and select Powerspeak Languages. To use Powerspeak in the library, click on the library icon. If you are not in the library, no problem. Anywhere you have an internet connection, you can log in remotely by clicking on the house icon and entering your library barcode. It’s like having your own personal language tutor available 24/7. 

Geared for adult students, Powerspeak offers training in Spanish, French, German, Mandarin and ESL for Spanish speakers. Up to 1000 interactive exercises per language are divided into six units, and each unit is comprised of interactive lessons organized into Sections entitled Activities, More Practice, and Dig Deeper. Exercises include mix-and-match vocabulary drills, grammar instruction, conversation teaching, and pronunciation practice in which you can record your voice and then compare it to how it should sound. At each lesson’s conclusion, any errors you made are reviewed. Colorful graphics abound, but the user interface is clean and simple to navigate. Your progress through the course is tracked by Powerspeak, which is encouraging; by completing a few lessons per day, anyone can greatly improve their proficiency in months or even weeks. ¿Interesado? Haga clic aquí.