Friday, May 27, 2016

May 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

All the Birds in the Sky 
by Charlie Jane Anders 

Despite the two frequently being conflated, science-fiction and fantasy are two different genres of books. Often, the genres have completely different themes and perspectives on storytelling. However, many authors attempt to write books merging the two genres. While not every effort is successful, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders succeeds brilliantly. 

All the Birds in the Sky tells the story of Patricia and Laurence, a young witch and genius inventor, respectively. The book follows the two over a period of years from childhood to adulthood as their lives intersect multiple times. The two also must contend with a world-changing threat and a mysterious assassin, but much of the conflict of the novel comes simply from the two character’s clashing world-views and ideals. Anders has clearly thought a lot about the interplay between science-fiction and fantasy, and in many ways, Laurence and Patricia’s relationship is a mirror to that. The two main characters are very well-defined, as well as the supporting cast. Anders has also clearly put a lot of thought into her world-building, and while I’m not sure if a sequel is planned, I would love to see her return to this setting for future books. 

As the former editor-in-chief of the nerd culture website io9, Anders clearly understands the conventions and tropes of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but puts her own spin on them.  If you’ve read science fiction and fantasy before, you’ve likely seen many of the elements of the book before, but never mixed together quite like this. As a result, the book feels both familiar and extremely unique at the same time. All the Birds in the Sky is funny, heartfelt, and above all else, a celebration of both science-fiction and fantasy. I would highly recommend this one. 


What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

by Anne Bernays & Pamela Painter 

The Lie That Tells a Truth
by John Dufresne 

Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True
by Elizabeth Berg 

Survival Writing by Claire Scrivener
If there’s one thing that Worcester does well, it’s produce writers. Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, John Dufresne...just to name a few. If that's your destiny too, here are a few books to consider for those days when focus and motivation are in short supply. 

What If? is full of exercises designed to prepare you for writing fabulous fiction, heavily interspersed with inspiring quotes and examples of work from well-known writers. This book could be used as a textbook for writing class, a writer needing a fresh perspective, or any fan of fiction writing, as it's a fascinating compilation of the best in the business. Exercises range from “Create an intriguing first sentence” to “You’re in the shower and you hear the front door (which you thought was locked), open. Write two pages.” 

John Dufresne’s The Lie that Tells a Truth also includes rousing quotes from famous writers and suggests helpful exercises, but his story is also very personal. Part memoir, part instruction manual, Dufresne generously shares his unique and humorous worldview, as well as  his writing history and habits with the reader. Having grown up on Grafton Hill in Worcester as a French Canadian Catholic, parts of his account will be very familiar to some locals, not to mention parts of the city. (If you’ve never read Dufresne before, do yourself a favor and read Requiem, Mass. for a real homegrown treat.) His book also contains also kinds of tricks to stimulate the imagination and unleash the emotions, i.e. "List all the pets you've ever had.  List all the things you are ashamed of."

Similarly, Elizabeth Berg provides her thoughts on writing in Escaping into the Open. She is well-known for her character-driven novels, but this book explains more about the nuts-and-bolts of accomplishing the act of writing and then getting published. For example, she provides a list of ideas for submissions to magazines for those wishing to break into the freelance biz, which was how she started her career. Berg concludes her book with recipes because “it’s important to nourish yourself when you’re working.”

And finally, a word on practical matters: to learn how to write letters, resumes, pitches, invoices, emails, articles, or reports, try Survival Writing by Claire Scrivener, a handbook designed to help readers navigate the business side of life successfully. She covers it all with the simple goal of transferring one's thoughts onto the page. Her tone is informal and light-hearted while being direct and informative.  Perfect for readers embarking on a new career and ESL students. 


Do you have a bully living inside of you?

Is she relentless in her demands that you be more, do more, or give more? Does she taunt you with lies that you’ll never reach your goals or be successful? If so, you may be dealing with a nasty little pest in the form of an Inner Mean Girl (IMG).

In their thought-provoking book Reform Your Inner Mean Girl:7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself, authors Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo discuss the painful aspect of self-bullying, a hardship from which many women suffer. In ReformYour Inner Mean Girl Ahlers and Arylo introduce readers to thirteen different Inner Mean Girls including: The Achievement Junkie, The Comparison Queen, The Doing Addict, The Drama Queen, The Fixer and Rescuer, The Good Girl, The Head Tripper, The Invincible Superwoman, The Martyr, The Overly Optimistic Partying Cheerleader, The Perfectionist, The Rejection Queen, and The Worrywart. Along with each of these IMG profiles, Ahlers and Arylo discuss the “weapons,” “toxic habits,” and “big fat lies” of each Inner Mean Girl to help readers get to know these powerful pests. Ahlers and Arylo also include a detailed assessment so readers can identify the kind of IMG that resides inside themselves, as well as a chapter on understanding each kind of IMG’s motivations and triggers.

In the second part of ReformYour Inner Mean Girl, Ahlers and Arylo encourage readers to overcome self-bullying for good in their chapter “Meet Your Inner Wisdom.” Ahlers and Arylo define Inner Wisdom as a “voice more powerful than even the most lethal of Inner Mean Girls” and “the part of you that knows who you really are. The loving presence that loves you unconditionally and as a result can offer compassion and care to you no matter what” (p. 119). Some features of this part of the book include: “Telling the difference between your Inner Mean Girl and Your Inner Wisdom,” “Love Mantras,” and “How to Strengthen Your Inner Wisdom.”

This book is chock full of revelations and inspiration that will help readers strengthen their own self-worth and take the power back from their inner critic so that they can redefine their own lives. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Read All About It at WPL!

The Periodicals Department a.k.a. the Quiet Zone is located on the 3rd floor of the Main Branch, and it's the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee and catch up on the latest news. In addition to popular magazines and journals, a puzzle table, and study rooms, WPL offers twenty-two newspapers available for perusal. Sixteen newspapers are displayed on A-frames and six (Investor’s Business Weekly, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and the Telegram & Gazette) are given out at the service desk. To view additional holdings in the Local History and Genealogy department, click here.

We also carry foreign language newspapers Armenian Weekly, Illyria, Nowy Dziennik, and Shih Chieh Jih Pao.  These are located in the World Language section on the 1st Floor. Keep current at WPL!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Worcester Public Library’s Health Reference Center

Come see the Worcester Public Library’s Health Resource Center on the 2nd floor. The Health Resource Center provides patrons with a space to browse our health reference books, monthly newsletters, pamphlets, and brochures.

Take advantage of our newsletter subscriptions:

These newsletters focus on current health issues such as consumer health, nutrition, aging, women’s health, heart disease, medical care decisions, eating healthy, exercise, and more.

Please help yourself to our growing collection of pamphlets on topics such as Medline, MassHealth One Care, chronic diseases like Asthma, HIV, healthy eating, and more in a variety of languages.

Our health reference books cover a variety of health topics ranging from medical history, vitamins and minerals, diseases and disorders, and homeopathy. If there is a topic you seek which is not covered, please suggest it to the librarian at the desk. 

WPL’s Health Reference Center is a growing knowledge base for your health information needs. Come utilize our resources today!

Welcome to the NEW Encyclopedia Britannica Online

Remember the Encyclopedia Britannica, that burgundy-colored multi-volume set in your school or public library? Good news, researchers: It’s now online and accessible to anyone with a WPL card! 

Look up any topic and the results list will include articles of varying lengths and levels of academic import, videos, vetted websites, and more. Once an item is viewed and selected, it can be printed or emailed, and citations in MLA, APA, Harvard or Chicago Manual of Style format are available at the click of the mouse. Each article can be translated into seventy languages, and many are available in read-aloud audio mode. The database is loaded with graphics, charts and statistics, and also suggested reading lists that include primary source e-books. 

The next time you have a project or paper due, don’t forget this valuable resource, conveniently located at Click on Research, select Online Databases, and Encyclopedia Britannica is listed alphabetically under Encyclopedias and Reference Titles. Suitable for elementary school-age children on up. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

By Paul Harding

For readers interested in nonlinear stories with beautiful and descriptive language, Tinkers should be on your to-read list. Tinkers is a 2010 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Massachusetts author Paul Harding. Based on Harding’s own family history, the novel focuses on the lives and relationships of three generations of New England men whose stories are infused throughout the novel. 

We first meet George, an antique clock repairer surrounded by family in his living room during his last days of life, as he streams in and out of reality, arousing past memories of his childhood in Northern Maine and his strained relationship with his father, Howard. Howard made his living as a tinker, traveling around with his donkey-drawn cart selling mops, tobacco and the like trying to provide for his family. We see glimpses into Howard’s childhood and his shortened relationship with his own father, a Methodist preacher. Their lives are plagued with poverty, mental illness, and epilepsy which affect their relationships with their families, causing rifts with lasting effects. 

George’s life was spent tinkering with time mechanisms, surrounded by clocks in his repair shop, in the basement of his house. The familial memories we are shown through George’s final days are his attempts to mend and repair the relationship with his father through his last thoughts and memories. It is ironic that George was an antique clock repairer focused on fixing time while Harding offers George’s story to us at the end of his time without regard for chronology of the story, but rather like a clock whose hands are at one o’clock, then eleven o’clock, to seven o’clock and on and on.

This novel’s examination into loss, time, and memory offers the reader a heartbreaking and beautiful story full of amazing imagery such as this passage, in which Harding describes Howard’s thoughts on the winter survival methods of the local hermit he supplies once a year at the beginning of spring: 

He liked to think of some fold in the woods, some seam that only the hermit could sense and slip into, where the frozen forest itself would accept him and he would no longer need fire or wool blankets, but instead flourish wreathed in snow, spun in frost,with limbs like cold wood and blood like frigid sap. (p. 37) 

It is hard to believe Harding’s novel was initially overlooked and ignored by publishing companies. Lucky for us, Bellevue Literary Press scooped it up from the desk drawer to be read by those who appreciate a beautifully written and pensive novel.


Murder at Hatfield House
By Amanda Carmack

If you are looking for a new mystery series, how about a historical mystery that is suspenseful and intricately detailed with a strong sense of place and memorable characters? Look no further than Amanda Carmack’s Elizabethan Mysteries series. 

In the series opener Murder at Hatfield House, we meet Kate Haywood and her father, musicians employed by and living in the home of Princess Elizabeth (you know, the daughter of dearly departed and beheaded Queen Anne Boleyn), when all of a sudden, someone discovers a dead body outside their home. Queen (Bloody) Mary rules the land and has her spies and minions everywhere, but somehow, amid a great deal of political scandal and intrigue, a murderer is lurking. Also, a strange ghostly woman has been creeping around Kate as she tries to figure out the identity of the killer and protect Princess Elizabeth from harm. 

Although this series is not for the faint of heart (there are detailed descriptions of those who have been murdered and one scene in particular is a bit disturbing), it is very enjoyable and has all that one might expect in an atmospheric mystery series. Grab your mug of tea, get cozy, and delve into this fun new historical mystery series! 

The rest of the series available at WPL or surrounding libraries :

Murder at Westminster Abbey - Book 2
Murder in the Queen’s Garden - Book 3
Murder at Whitehall - Book 4
Murder at Fontainebleau (coming out in June 2016) - Book 5


The Heart Goes Last 
By Margaret Atwood 

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, has a lot going on. Following a major economic collapse, Charmaine and Stan find themselves living in their car in constant fear from the threat of roving gangs. When Charmaine sees an ad for a new work program in a town called Consilience, the couple is seduced by the promise of white picket fences, friendly neighbors and guaranteed employment. In the bleak landscape of Atwood’s alternative America this promise is too good to be true. Once Stan and Charmaine have signed their names on the dotted line they’re oriented to their new lives at Consilience. They’ll be given a beautiful house and steady jobs. For six months of every year they will live idyllic lives. Every other month they will serve as prisoners at Positron Prison. 

The arrangement goes well at first. But as Stan and Charmaine are each tempted to stray from their marriage vows, the truth about their perfect community is gradually revealed to them. The basic premise of this novel sounds a little run of the mill—but this is Margaret Atwood, so you know there is more to it. Elvis sex robots, brain surgery that transforms people into willing sex slaves, strange perversions involving blue knit teddy bears. This book can be bleak—but there were definitely some moments of hilarity as well. I particularly enjoyed the narration of Mark Deakins, who reads Stan’s chapters. His reactions to the more insane elements of this story can be described as a kind of casual outrage. 

Though the characters are unlikeable, the story is engaging. Once you get going you won’t be able to stop until you find out how everything turns out. And along the way you’ll find yourself pondering uncomfortable assertions about the nature of love and what it can endure. 


By Tom Yancey

Are we alone in this world or are there others out there? No, we are not alone and, yes, there are others out there.  Next question: Are they friendly? what do they want? If they have not attacked us, then they must not want war, right? These are the thoughts running through Cassie’s mind as she is on her way to school.

The others, those beings in the sky hovering above the earth, have not done anything but sit in the sky, so why not go on acting like everything is right in this world? There are two options: continue to live your life like nothing is wrong and the sky is blue, or flee--but is fleeing really an option? Where can you go where they cannot see you, and is it really going to help save you if these creatures in the sky strike at us? What would you do if aliens where in the sky? Well, Cassie and her family do nothing, they just continue with their daily lives (as do several others) and that is when it all begins.

The first wave takes place while Cassie is at school. Everything electrical no longer works--no cell phone, no lights, no cars. If you were lucky enough to survive the first wave, then you had to deal with the second wave, the third, and then by the time the fourth wave hits, you no longer trust anyone. Everyone you see is your enemy and that is just what they want.

To keep on breathing is to be alone, but when Cassie's brother is taken, how will she keep her promise to find him? Who will she trust, who will help her, and how will she defeat an alien force that looks just like the people she grew up with?

You are alone, no one to confide in, no one to trust, no one to turn to; the fifth wave is upon you.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Need to do some market research? Try AtoZ Databases

AtoZ Databases is a top-tier job search, reference & mailing list database, which includes 30 million business and executive profiles, and 220 million residents. Ideal for creating sales leads mailing lists, conducting market research, finding employment opportunities, locating friends, relatives and businesses. Content is available in Spanish.

Additionally, AtoZ offers free training. Sign up for "Principles of How to Find New Customers & Grow Your Business," and 
you will learn how to increase your client list and even generate more foot traffic within your business. Also covered is emailing data, creating matrices, and figuring out who your competition is. Register here for a 30-minute session.

All that is necessary to avail yourself of this wealth of information is your WPL library card. Go to, select Online Databases, and locate AtoZ at the top of Business & Finance. Happy hunting!