Monday, December 15, 2014

December 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

December 16, 2015 

Broken Monsters 
By Lauren Beukes 

This literary thriller by accomplished author Lauren Beukes starts off weird, and gets weirder. Dedicated Detroit cop Gabriella Versado finds the body of a dead boy, dumped under an underpass, but she only finds part of him. His torso has been brutally severed and stitched onto the legs of a deer. She has very little to go on…consult taxidermists? Voodoo experts? Could it be gang related? While she investigates, we also follow the stories of others in Detroit: the detective’s teenage daughter; a hipster ‘journalist’, recently displaced from New York by heartbreak; a man called the “Homeless Hero” who works at the shelter and looks out for everyone around him. We hear from each of these characters every day as the tension builds. How will their lives intersect? The journalist, Jonno, gets an in to the Detroit art scene from an attractive female DJ, who shows him the secret world of graffiti around the city. He decides he is a video journalist and begins documenting everything he sees, eventually capturing footage that may greatly help the police. The detective's daughter and her best friend stumble into vigilantism as they convince an online pedophile to meet them in real life. Meanwhile, he body count grows. The characters daily lives fit together like a puzzle, which converges one night at a wild warehouse party/art installation where the serial killer is trying to showcase his morbid masterpiece. 

Broken Monsters is well-researched, and the characters ring true, from the detective to the “Homeless Hero.” The internet could be said to be another main character in this book, as we are given chat records, Youtube video play-by-plays, and even a Reddit AMA. As a reader who knows little about Detroit’s culture and only of its financial trouble, this was an illuminating read and piqued my interest in learning more. The grotesque nature of the crimes, especially the final scenes in the killer’s bizarre hideout nest in an abandoned factory, are very reminiscent of the TV show "True Detective".


December 9, 2014 

Fireball: Carole Lombard and The Mystery of Flight 
By Robert Matzen 

This is an ebook downloadable from Overdrive on the Worcester Public Library website. Matzen's book explores the violent crash of Flight 3 into Mt. Potosi, Nevada on the night of January 16, 1942. Lombard, at the height of her immense popularity, died, along with twenty one other people, including her mother. 

 Fireball scrutinizes, in alternating chapters, the life of Lombard and Hollywood, and the events leading up to and the aftermath of the terrible crash. The events in these alternating chapters leave one with a powerful sense of fate at work, a tragic fate that could have no other ending. Lombard was married to the legendary actor Clark Gable at the time of the crash and Lombard was barnstorming America to sell War Bonds when she refused to disembark the plane for servicemen who were a priority at the time. She had been barnstorming by rail. The irony in this is that at one point she nearly gave up her career due to an accident but tenaciously fought her way back through recovery. 

Matzen's book is very thorough in its details. To his credit, he tells the stories of all the victims even though the focus is on celebrities. He also analyzes the investigations into Flight 3 by government agencies and even sabotage theories. The book is a look at Hollywood, a country at war, soldiers, pilots, and the mystery of the tragedy. Readers should be braced for some graphic passages. However, when all is read, Matzen's book is an honest and very empathetic page turner of a famous actress's life in the golden age of film and her untimely death. This book is highly recommended for movie fans, aviation history buffs, and anyone interested in American social life in the 30's and 40's. 


December 1, 2014 

By Meg Wolitzer 

Take a group of troubled teens, a Vermont boarding school, and journals which when used pull the writer into a time warp where he can re-live and re-experience a part of his life, and you have an interesting concept for a novel. Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel Belzhar is taut story about a group of emotionally traumatized teens in a private Vermont therapeutic boarding camp named The Wooden Barn. 

The novel focuses on a female student Jam and her relationship with a British exchange student, Reeve, with whom she has fallen in love. The group is selected to participate in a prestigious class called Special Topics in English led by the reclusive and strict teacher Mrs. Quenell. She assigns a journal writing task to the group, and eventually, each student is pulled back into the netherworld of their respective trauma whenever they start writing in their journal. Wolitzer’s students and the specific traumas they must deal with to overcome the psychic paralysis in their lives give the story a strong sense of suspense and other worldliness as each student, under the mentoring of Mrs. Quenell, resurrects their former self in dealing with their past trauma. A sub-plot in this story features one student’s refusal to be released from her past and this drama leads to the climax of the novel. 

Wolitzer’s novel is entertaining, suspenseful, and deals with gaining emotional and psychological maturity in a context to which many young readers will be able to relate. Additionally, her ear for teen dialog, school social scenes, and relationships between teachers, parents, and siblings flow realistically and flesh out a novel which, in less talented hands, could have veered too far into the weird. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide to Purchasing E-Readers

Main Features
Free Library
Digital Downloads
$69 - 219
E-ink screen with option to light up, touch screen or keyboard
*e-reader only*
Overdrive e-books (Kindle format only); must use computer to search library catalog; Available to borrow at the Welcome Desk
Kindle Fire
$79 - 379
Touch screen tablet with web browser & apps through Amazon
Overdrive e-books (Kindle format only), OneClick e-audiobooks, Hoopla movies, mp3s & e-audiobooks
Nook BW / Touch
Barnes & Noble/
$79 - 119
E-ink screen with backlight available, touch screen or keyboard
*e-reader only*
Overdrive e-books (EPUB format only); must use computer to search library catalog
Nook Color
Barnes & Noble/
$129 - 179
Touch screen tablet with web browser and apps
Overdrive e-books (EPUB format only), OneClick e-audiobooks, Hoopla movies,  mp3s & e-audiobooks
iPad Air 2/ iPad Mini 3
$399 - 499
Touch screen tablet with web browser & apps through iTunes App Store
Overdrive e-books (Kindle or EPUB format), OneClick e-auidobooks, Freegal mp3s, Hoopla movies, mp3s & e-audiobooks
Android Tablet
Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Rakuten & more/ prices vary
Touch screen tablet with web browser & apps through Google Play store
Overdrive e-books (Kindle or EPUB format), OneClick e-auidobooks, Freegal mp3s, Hoopla movies, mp3s & e-audiobooks

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 2014 Book Recommendations

November 18, 2014

Murder 101: A Decker/Lazarus Novel 
By Faye Kellerman &

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot 
By Reed Farrel Coleman 

If you are a fan of Faye Kellerman and have followed Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker throughout the years, nothing I say is likely to stop you from reading Murder 101, the latest installment in the series. Nonetheless, I would recommend skipping this title. 

Why? In a word: bor-ing. Kellerman has moved Rina and Peter to a fictitious upstate NY hamlet from the mean streets of LA, which is a bummer. Part of the magic of the Decker/Lazarus team was the contrast of Peter’s gritty work requirements contrasted with Rina’s cozy domesticity. Further, the plot centers on the theft of Tiffany glass panels from a mausoleum. Yawn. A few murders ensue but rather than this picking up the pace, the author gets bogged down in minutiae about Russian art, etc. I don’t know about you but when I read a mystery novel, I’m just in it for the sheer entertainment of a whodunit. Brain candy, take me away. 

Which brings us to Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, the latest in the Jesse Stone mysteries, a far more satisfying read, despite the fact that the author is dead. Well, Robert B. Parker is dead, but his ghost writer, so to speak, has picked up the pen right where Parker left off without sacrificing anything in tone, character development or plot. Jesse Stone, a detective transplanted from LA like Decker, faces a demon from his past when an old rival in both baseball and love comes back to town at the same time a local rich kid is kidnapped and his girlfriend murdered. Unlike Decker, Stone is a lone wolf still trying to figure out how to get along with others, despite his full roster of female companions. Although this story also plays out in a sleepy hamlet, discovering how all the pieces fit together engages the reader enough to make even the characters’ forays into Lowell intriguing. 

If you’re a mystery reader, Robert B. Parker, dead or alive, rarely disappoints, but stick to Faye Kellerman’s less recent work for page-turning fun. 


November 10, 2014 

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales
By Margaret Atwood 

Short stories. I know a lot of avid fiction readers scan right past short story collections on their way to novels. This would be a mistake, though, in the case of Margaret Atwood’s latest offering Stone Mattress. Every tale reveals Atwood at the height of her powers, seemingly effortlessly spinning yarns with confidence and self-assurance. You can almost sense cockiness amid the darkly humorous prose. After publishing over fifty novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, and non-fiction works, this writer knows what she’s doing. 

The first three stories of the nine feature the interior lives of different participants involved in a multi-faceted love triangle, at least fifty years after its painful unraveling. The conclusion of this drama is simple, sweet, and profound. While the rest of the stories all contain elements of the macabre, Atwood’s keen insights into human nature are just as present. “Lusus Naturae” was written for Michael Chabon’s project McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories; “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” provides a phantom-filled follow-up to Atwood’s 1994 novel The Robber Bride; “The Dead Hand Loves You” is a spooky tale about fate, and “The Freeze-Dried Groom” leaves you wondering where the next body will turn up. The title story, to me, was the most interesting, as it methodically outlines how to cover up a murder on a cruise ship in a truly engaging tale of well-deserved payback. “Torching the Dusties,” while disturbing in its premise of young radicals terrorizing nursing homes in a misguided effort to balance the environmental scales, is a fine finale. 

Short stories don’t get much press, but as writer Neil Gaiman says, “The short story is a very underrated art form.” If ever there was a reason to read short stories, Atwood gives you nine of them here. 


November 3, 2014 

John Singer Sargent and His Muse: Painting Love and Loss
By Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman 

In the end, this is three stories: a love story, a war story, and an art story. The cast in this story are famous, in some cases, and wealthy, educated, and talented in most other cases. John Singer Sargent, the famous American painter, was raised in Europe, and constantly crisscrossed the European continent as did most of his extended family. Sargent made his mark early as a great painter. He often summered in the Swiss Alps and invited family members to join him and he would paint and use family members as models dressing them in Asian and Middle Eastern fashions which reflected Western artistic interest in those cultures in the early 20th century. 

His favorite model was his niece Rose-Marie, an educated, vivacious, and attractive young woman. She is the lead model in many of his famous watercolors from those vacations in paintings such as The Brook, Simplon Pass: Reading and The Pink Dress, which is reproduced on the cover of the book. Rose-Marie met and fell in love with Robert Michel, a young and rising historian, and the son of famous French art historian, Andre Michel, whom Sargent knew. The background of these families is explored in detail to demonstrate the idealism of the young couple as they united. The authors follow their lives and reactions to the war once it breaks out. Robert is activated and is an officer. He writes letters and entries in his journal which reflect incredible idealism, which did not seem to diminish even after he experiences the carnage of some of the war’s battles. We as readers know in advance what will ultimately happen. That does not, however, reduce the terribly tragic impact of his fate. Rose-Marie decides to serve as a nurse in a rehabilitation unit for blinded soldiers. We know what will happen to her, too. That tragic impact is not reduced either. 

The author’s chapter, “The Paris Gun”, reads almost like a technical bulletin in describing the weapon that the Krupp foundry created to fire long-range into Paris. It is harrowing to read knowing what its firing mission will do. As mentioned earlier, this is a war story and war stories are tragic. It is also a love story, and in this case, a very moving one. The apt subtitle, Painting Love and Loss, perfectly describes, in a poignant and profound way, the rest of the book, a story about art and how a work of art came to be painted. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

LearningExpress Library

Need to brush up your math, grammar or science skills? Eager to practice for the HiSET, SAT, GRE or LSAT exam? Preparing to become a U.S citizen? Need information about a career? Try LearningExpress Library! This online database provides a wide variety of career and educational resources that will help you build the necessary skills to achieve your goals. 

Here you will find practice tests, ebooks, interactive tools, strategies, advice and much much more, all designed by experts. 
Take a practice test, and review the results to see how you did. You can also create a personal portfolio page to review your progress. 

Check out the entire list of featured resources here:

For convenience the database is broken into several centers depending on the topic of interest.

  • Adult Learning Center – Math, Grammar, Writing, Citizenship Exam 
  • Career Center – Occupation Exams, Entrance Exams, Information about careers 
  • College Center – Advanced Placement, TOEFL, PSAT, SAT 
  • High School Equivalency Center – Basic Skills, HiSET, GED 
  • College Preparation Center – College Placement Exams, Graduate School Exams, Reading, Math and Science Skills 
  • Recursos Para Hispanohablantes – Resources in Spanish 
  • School Center – Elementary, Middle and High school skills 

For more assistance, you can navigate through the helpful User Guides section. Instructional videos are available here, if you are interested in learning more about the database.

Access: Go to our homepage, click on Online Databases, then select Education, K-12 & Test Prep. Click on LearningExpress Library. Create your free account with a Worcester Public Library card and email address. It's as easy as that!