Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders 
By Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, and Dylan Thuras 

Do you ever want to explore far-off lands and places, and wander off the beaten path without leaving home? Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton and Dylan Thuras offers a look at some of the more obscure places and objects throughout the world. Adapted from the popular website of the same name, Atlas Obscura chronicles over 600 of the world’s most obscure and intriguing tourist destinations, items and sites of interest. 

From the ancient, to the modern, Atlas Obscura lists and describes such places, objects and events as the Museum of Counterfeit Goods in Thailand, the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal, an ancient flooded city in China, and a lightbulb that hasn’t burnt out since it was installed 115 years ago in California. Along the way, Atlas Obscura also details other lists such as a selection of bizarre street-food eggs, and a catalogue of giant sculptures across Australia. 

The book itself is laid out well, with entries separated by country, and the entries also tend to feature good photographs or illustrations of the subjects. One issue that I had with the book was that many of the entries were interesting enough to warrant more information than the brief paragraphs included in the book. As I was reading, I found myself often pulling out my phone to look for additional information on many of the places listed. It would have been nice if more of the entries could have gotten at least a multiple page description. As a starting point for research, or to spark travel ideas, however Atlas Obscura is great. I also appreciated that the entries in question are actually obscure. I was familiar with some of the places and objects the book described, but most were new information for me. I would recommend this one for anyone interested in travel, history, or the obscure.


A Promise of Fire
By  Amanda Bouchet 

A Promise of Fire is a fast-paced adventure containing elements of fantasy, romance, and suspense. One of the main reasons I decided to read this book was because of the marketing ploy on the inside cover that read: “If you like…cool world building, a kick-ass heroine, pulse-pounding adventure, snappy banter, and an uber-alpha warlord hero: you’ll love the Kingmaker Chronicles.” I wish all books had this unique feature! 

For the most part, this book delivers what it promises: “kick ass-heroine” Cat (Catalia Fisa) is pretty cool. She is the perfect companion to walk with through a back alley in a seedy town; she packs knives which she can throw with incredible precision, she can become invisible within seconds, and she can steal magic from others, such as Dragon’s Breath, which will obliterate anyone in her path. She can also communicate with Gods such as Poseidon, and Hades’ slobbery sidekick, Cerberus. 

In addition to Cat, we get to meet Griffin (also called Beta Sinta), the “uber-alpha warlord hero,” who is massive, commanding, and could cut someone with one look. In spite of his size and power, however, Griffin is very understanding and patient towards Cat even though most of the bruises and attacks he receives in the story are by her hand. These two strongly developed characters make this book a real find, but I also greatly enjoyed the scenes with the plethora of fleshed-out secondary characters, like Griffin’s rough and tough yet goofy fellow soldiers Flynn, Kato, and Carver. 

Even though this book is extremely well written and engaging, there are a few things that somewhat diminished my enjoyment of the story, namely, the love scenes. While scorching and very detailed, they are full of anguish and are exhausting to read. Throughout the story, Cat reveals snippets (mostly in the form of nightmares that plague her) of having a very tough childhood. While it is understandable why she carries so much angst and distrust towards others, at the same time, it is frustrating to witness her apathetic, and at many times, violent behavior towards those who are on her side.  Another drawback was that I was so far on the edge of my seat waiting to see if I was right about a big plot twist...and it was never revealed! 

The good news is there is a sequel in the making (Breath of Fire is due out next January) so hopefully The Kingmaker Chronicles will just keep getting better.


The Passenger
By Lisa Lutz

If you ever find yourself considering life on the lam, read The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. From this book you will be able to create an impressive checklist of necessary supplies (hair color in every shade) and things to worry about when you make your great escape!

The thriller opens with the line “When I found my husband at the bottom of the stairs…” and doesn’t slow down much from there. Tanya Dubois, from whose point-of-view the action unfolds, pours herself a bourbon and ponders:  Should she call the cops to report her husband’s accident?  This would surely cause them to look closely at her and there are good reasons for her reluctance on that score. Unraveling those reasons will take the reader through eight chapters, each named after Tanya’s latest identity, on a road trip that gives new meaning to the term “reckless abandon.” 

In Tanya, Lutz has created a pragmatic, resilient, preternaturally independent protagonist reminiscent of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, and also crafts a few memorable characters, most notably, Blue the world-weary bartender from Austin, TX. Together Tanya and Blue embark on a Thelma and Louise-esque adventure that leaves the reader unsure of Blue’s true motives, despite Tanya’s impressive ability to size people up in an instant. Ultimately, it’s a combination of her intuition, quick thinking and keen observation of human behavior that ensure Tanya’s survival in every situation.

Readers will relish the vicarious thrill of Tanya’s devil-may-care life on the edge, while rooting for her happy-ending redemption at the same time. Lutz’ dry humor and storytelling acumen can also be enjoyed in her Spellman series.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Morningstar Investment Research Center--Online!

Did you know that Morningstar is available online at www.mywpl.org? All you need is your library card to access comprehensive financial information on New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange, and NASDAQ stocks, find comprehensive financial information on thousands of mutual funds, including the Morningstar star rating, view information on hundreds of exchange-traded funds with up-to-date information on returns, reports and Morningstar ratings, and get return information on various investment indexes, types, sectors, and styles. You can also test drive easy-to-use portfolio tools and calculators to determine what your asset mix should be and how your investments are working together, access the newsletter archive, and take advantage of free monthly financial literacy training webinars listed under the “Help & Education” section.  Visit our homepage, click on Online Databases and select Morningstar.  It’s that easy.

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

Before the Fall
By Noah Hawley 

Have you ever considered what it would be like to be the center of a media firestorm? Before the Fall by Noah Hawley tells the story of painter Scott Burroughs, a struggling artist who accepts a ride on a private jet from Martha’s Vineyard to New York along with an influential media titan, his wife and young son, and a number of other wealthy and famous power-players. Minutes after take-off, the plane crashes and Scott and the young boy are the only survivors. Scott swims the young child miles to the beach and into instant media notoriety. 

The book interweaves a number of narrative threads, including Scott’s attempts to deal with his newfound celebrity, his dealings with the family members of the victims, and suspicion and personal attacks from a powerful news commentator who worked for the media executive. The book also includes flashbacks to the backstories of the people on the plane and describes the efforts of the detectives investigating the mystery of the plane crash. 

Hawley does an amazing job making the reader understand what it might be like to have overnight notoriety and the disorientation that it would bring. The characters are also interestingly flawed and compelling. Hawley has been a producer and writer for a number of television shows, including the excellent Fargo, and Before the Fall definitely has the feel of a really good drama in how it slowly lays out character and plot details piece by piece. 

As a word of warning, from reviews I’ve seen, it seems that how the mystery of the plane crash resolves has been polarizing to some readers. In fairness, Before the Fall has been compared by many to a mystery-thriller along the lines of Girl on the Train or Gone Girl, and that isn’t quite how I would describe it. Without getting into spoiler territory, I loved how the eventual explanation for the plane crash played perfectly into the themes with which Hawley layered his entire book. However, readers looking for a complex and convoluted solution should realize that Before the Fall is ultimately more about the psychology of the characters than the mystery of the plane crash. 

Anyone searching for a great character-based dramatic story would be well advised to check this one out. I highly recommend it.


Heat Exchange: Boston Fire
By Shannon Stacey

This is a lively, fast-paced, contemporary romance set in Boston that pulled me out of my prolonged book rut. Still, even though the book was engrossing,I found myself critiquing it more than enjoying it. 

Main character Lydia, who comes from a long line of firefighters, and Aidan, firefighter and best friends with Lydia’s brother Scotty, are not supposed to be together. Even though Lydia thinks Aidan is as hot as a stack of pancakes, she loathes being involved with a firefighter (her cheating ex-husband was a firefighter, and she spent her childhood feeling as though her father put his job and fellow firefighters above the needs of his own family). Likewise, Aidan, who is clearly smitten with Lydia, can’t even think of dating his best friend’s sister without the repercussions to his friendship, as well as the possibility of serious bodily harm if Scotty ever found out about their relationship. Thus, Stacey sets the stage for an intricately plotted, in-depth forbidden romance, with lots and lots of steamy sessions between the sheets (trust me, these were not lacking). So why the lukewarm review? 

The not so bad: 
  • I have never read a romance with a firefighter as a main character and it was really interesting to learn about the challenges and rewards of the profession. 
  • There is quite a lot of dysfunction among the families of the different characters which adds a different dimension to the plot and the story. Although I wished this could have been more central in the lives of the main characters rather than just background information, it did keep me more engaged than if it had not been part of the book. 
The not so good: 
  • The characters, while well-fleshed out, were not always particularly likeable. Lydia was often mean to Aidan and frequently forced him to see things from her point of view without ever dealing with her own hang-ups. Meanwhile, Aidan stood idly by while his best friend Scotty (who is pretty much an all-around scummy character) belittled and shamed a fellow firefighter for trying to rescue a dog from a burning house.. Although I have no point of reference for how challenging it is to be a firefighter, I can’t help but imagine that any decision to try and save a life (including the four-legged ones) has to be extremely heart-wrenching and not to be taken lightly. 
  • A very quick, unsatisfying wrap-up towards the end. Without giving anything away, I was very close to throwing my book across the room  and smacking myself on the head! (don’t worry, no paperbacks, or readers, were actually harmed!)
Hey, I’m just one reviewer! Give it a try and perhaps Heat Exchange: Boston Fire will be more enjoyable for you than it was for me. At the very least, you get to hang out in Boston for awhile.


The Power of Now
By Eckhart Tolle

Spirituality is a messy business. Every religious and spiritual tradition seems to have its own bewildering set of concepts, deities, and path to "enlightenment", whatever that is. Eckhart Tolle tidies up this mess in The Power of Now, breaking a jumbled pantheon of (mostly Eastern) spiritual traditions down into a simple Zen-like arrangement. 

Tolle’s arrangement centers on the Now, and how staying in the present moment can free us from pain and transform our lives. If you’ve read any Buddhism, Tolle’s concept of Now should sound familiar, but you may know it as ‘mindfulness’ or ‘awareness’. Tolle’s method of harnessing the power of Now will likely sound familiar as well, with Tolle asking us to watch the mind and connect to body sensations like breath. Where Tolle shines is in his ability to make these sometimes difficult and poorly explained concepts into something more easily grasped. 

The appeal of Tolle’s The Power of Now will vary depending on where you are on your path. For anyone already familiar with concepts like mindfulness and awareness, this book may give you another angle on these concepts, but may not help further your practice. Tolle’s own enlightenment experience was of the sudden kind, and it shows. Little mention is made of the long practice most will need to become proficient in staying present, the kind of practice that takes years to grasp. Imagine a virtuoso playing a sublime piece of music for you, then handing you her instrument, and asking you to play the same; you may feel inspired but a little dumbfounded. The ideas presented in this book are solid, but be warned: harnessing the power of Now may be harder than Tolle makes it seem. 

Not many books sell millions of copies without a good reason though, and there is much to be said for The Power of Now. If you tend toward the secular in your spiritual pursuits and avoid the conceptual and ritual trappings of religion, this may be the book for you. Tolle gives new words to a variety of concepts, helping to separate them from the baggage of their parentage. Likewise, if you are beginning a spiritual journey, looking for something to inspire you, or just want to dip your toe in the pool, this little tome may be what you need right now.


This One Summer
By Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Are you in denial that school has started? Yeah, me too. I’m still in summer reading mode, so I’ve been lazing on the porch during these dog days with some breezy young adult graphic novels that capture the essence of summertime. (Technically, it’s still summer until September 22nd, so we’re good for now.) Sometimes, I get lucky with a story that has both the ease and flow of a beach read, and the heart of a timeless classic. 

In This One Summer, Rose is off to Awago Beach again, where her parents have a lake house. She spends most of her time with her BFF there, Windy. They spend their lazy days swimming, biking, and reading – but this summer’s different. For one thing, they’re “tweens” now, gazing from afar at the high schooler and resident bad boy who works at the video store, and predicting the bra sizes they’ll eventually need. Rose is definitely more worried than Windy, and more hung up on the video store guy and whether or not he has a girlfriend. Windy would rather just have fun. (The scene where Windy dances around Rose’s kitchen table is infatuating.) 

And it’s a good thing Rose has Windy to get her out of the house this summer, because her parents seem to be arguing nonstop. The arguing eventually turns into full-blown fights. She’s not sure what they’re even fighting about, but something must have happened long ago that traumatized her mom forever… Slowly, Rose realizes that with all the excitement of growing up, it also means leaving pre-adolescent innocence behind. 

I’m a relatively new reader of graphic novels and this one sets the bar pretty high. I read it in a day but when I say “day” I mean virtually all 24 hours because I lingered on every beautiful page. Long, refined strokes evoke the charm and nostalgia of summer camp and vacation cabins. The Tamaki sisters have created a perfect combo of simplicity and gravitas, both in art and story. The dialogue is delightfully random at times, a fairly accurate representation of the aimless, unstructured nature of summer vacation. I fell in love with both young female heroes. Rose has a quiet dignity about her, and no matter how hard she tries to fit in with the cool crowd, she can’t deny her independent spirit. Windy is far more unapologetic about her free-spirited nature, and she tells it like it is. 

The themes are heavy – teen pregnancy, miscarriage – but treated with delicacy and grace, so I’d say teenagers and even some of our more mature middle-schoolers would be able to handle it swimmingly. Bear in mind Rose and Windy often engage in trash talking, and like virtually all teenage girls, they use some colorful language. Highly recommended for ages 13+.


By Stephanie Danler
Restaurant folk, this book’s for you.  Author Stephanie Danler, member of the as-yet-unorganized but omnipresent League of Literate Waitresses (you know who you are), has made good with a captivating tale that is both a coming-of-age story and a sumptuous feast for the senses.
Sweetbitter, Danler’s debut novel, describes a pivotal year in the life of twenty-two year old Tess, beginning with her arrival in New York City where she knows not a soul. Determined to leave her small town past behind and “start” her life, she succeeds in charming her way into a job at one of Manhattan’s toniest, most respected restaurants as a back waiter.  Despite lack of experience, Tess’s potential rapidly transforms into knowledge and skill as she trains in fine dining service, fancy food, and, of course, wine.  While receiving this unparalleled hands-on education, “new girl” also falls in love with the familial yet sexually charged atmosphere of the famous restaurant, forming dangerously strong emotional attachments to both her mentor Simone and Jake, a mysterious bartender. 
Beyond Danler’s razor sharp insight, what shines about her writing is how she brilliantly captures the rhythms and theater of restaurant work:  the way time zooms during a busy shift, the physical pain and manic energy  incurred from lifting, standing, running, and serving for hours without a break that can take hours to dissipate, the strain of upholding the adage “the customer is always right,” and the intense communal dynamic that makes or breaks a night and makes you feel like you are in the center of the universe. Within the narrative, Danler provides a few poetic streams of overheard conversation from both guests and staff, illustrating how Tess isn't just a food server; she's immersed in the best and worst of humanity as she moves around the floor.
Despite a somewhat predictable conclusion, the arc of Tess’s sensual journey will keep you engaged. Salud!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Superfoods, Super You! Summer Recipe Series: Easy Turkey Chili

As summer starts to wind down, I would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who participated in our summer reading program and submitted recipes to share! We hope you had a super summer and enjoyed our Superfoods, Super You! Summer Recipe Series. If you are looking for more healthy recipe ideas, come visit the second floor reference desk and our librarians will show you our recipe table or help you to find some healthy cookbooks.

For the last installment of our Superfoods, Super You! Summer Recipe Series, we are featuring our patron Jeanne G.’s deliciously easy turkey chili recipe. This recipe will warm you up as fall approaches and the nights become cool and mild. Enjoy!


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 30 oz can diced tomato (salt free)
  • ½ cup of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste


  1. In a big pot, brown ground turkey along with the onion and garlic
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and tomato paste
  3. Cook on medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally
  4. Serve with fresh steamed veggies and whole wheat or multigrain bread
  5. Top with shredded cheese if desired

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division
By Michael A. Cohen


Every four years during election season, people typically mention how the current election is particularly combative and lament the breakdown of political discourse. Anyone who thinks that the 2016 election is uniquely eventful, however, should check out Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen’s account of the 1968 presidential election, one of the most contentious in American history. In American Maelstrom, Cohen describes how 1968 would see President LBJ decide not to run for reelection, the assassination of RFK, anti-war riots at the Democratic National Convention, and Richard Nixon’s development of the Southern Strategy to stir up racial resentment. All this took place against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Cohen’s account is quite readable and fast-paced, and despite the scholarly nature of the book, makes for an exciting read. Cohen’s experience as a newspaper columnist makes him particularly good at describing events clearly and succinctly. While Cohen does a great job explaining various events and concepts however, he does assume a certain prior knowledge of the American political system that could leave some readers confused. Still, the book should be understandable to a political novice, though politics aficionados will likely get more out of it. 

Beyond a simple retelling of the events of the election, Cohen lays out a compelling case that the events of 1968 created reverberations in American politics that linger to this day. The year 1968 sent the Democratic Party into a tailspin that they wouldn’t fully recover from for years, and changed the way that both Democrats and Republicans campaign. In the closing chapter of the book, Cohen goes through a timeline of presidential elections from 1968 to the present day and clearly shows how events from those elections echo what took place in 1968. As Cohen quotes one presidential aide saying, “It’s never stopped being 1968.”


The Girls
By Emma Cline

At a 2002 parole board hearing, Manson family member Leslie Van Houten said: “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”
Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2016 

Much has been made about the fact that this summer's bestselling novel The Girls is about the Charles Manson’s "family” and their notorious crimes of August 1969. And while it is fictional rendering of those real events, what is most compelling about this work is that its answers to the answerable, i.e., "Why would those young women commit such atrocities, based only on Manson’s say-so, without him even present? How did they fall under his influence in the first place?", ring so very true.

Cline’s answers are conveyed through the past and present psyche of her protagonist Evie Boyd. Lulled by a hum-drum summer and feeling adrift since her parents’ recent divorce and breakup with her best friend, Evie’s curiosity is instantly peaked when she spies a group of bohemian girls boldly making their way around a local park: “They were messing with an uneasy threshold, prettiness and ugliness at the same time, and a ripple of awareness followed them.”  Before too long, she has an opportunity to impress the alpha female among them by shoplifting food for her. A chance encounter a few days later, after a fight with her increasingly distant mother places Evie into a dangerous state of rebellion, inspires Evie to follow this group back to their ranch. All it takes after that is a few hours alone with magnetic leader Russell and she’s spiritually committed to “the family”. 

The vulnerability incurred merely by existing as an adolescent female in the world, the stubborn overconfidence of teenagers, and perhaps more than anything else, the very human, overarching need to belong (as so adeptly described in Sebastian Junger’s latest work Tribe), are the weaknesses through which Russell exploits his loyal followers. However, the book is very little about him; it’s all about The Girls. 


Listen, Slowly
By Thanhhà Lại 

Mai’s a regular Cali girl — she swims, she surfs, and spends most of her time goofing off with her superficial best friend. At school her friends call her Mia, an American variant on her given Vietnamese name. It’s indicative of the way she generally feels about her heritage; it definitely doesn't fit her lifestyle. But this summer, her plans to get a boyfriend and a tan are thwarted when her Ba (grandmother) finds out about her long lost husband who went MIA during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents are making her go with Ba, not only because they don’t want Ba going by herself but because they think it’s about time Mai experiences her culture. Mai’s bummed, but she doesn’t have the heart to say no to her beloved grandmother. So she leaves to spend her summer on the beach -- just not Laguna Beach. 

Vietnam is hot, humid, insanely buggy, and much of the food upsets her stomach. She’s lonely, tired, and nauseous, and can’t really communicate with anyone besides her Ba. But then she meets a few friends — one with a Texas accent, even — and slowly she begins to understand more Vietnamese. As she becomes more and more familiar with the language, the rest falls into place. She finds dishes she enjoys, cute clothes for sale in markets and friends to hang out with. She travels to Saigon and Hanoi, catches frogs, gets muddy and creates a particularly special bond with her quirky cousin. But the mystery of her grandfather, the underlying reason for her trip, is truly what helps her immerse into Vietnamese culture. 

What I especially love is Mai’s voice. She’s got a kind of swagger to her that’s distinctly pre-adolescent. She’s funny, sarcastic, confident (at times cocky), but she’s not immune to getting crushed by a crush, being embarrassed or insecure, so she's definitely relatable. It's a lot different from Lại's debut novel Inside Out & Back Again, which is written in free verse and set during the Vietnam War. Listen, Slowly is much less intense and more identifiable for a child or young adult reader. 

I was inspired to read this book after a young patron at the Goddard Branch Library checked it out - sans enthusiasm - with her Vietnamese father smiling by her side. I think that finding your cultural roots often begins with parents’ direction, like how Mai’s parents made her go on the trip. Eventually, though, you discover a part of yourself you never knew about. Maybe this patron will feel the same after she reads it, and others like it. 


Alpine for You
by Maddy Hunter

Looking for a fun, LOL, travel murder mystery? Look no further than Maddy Hunter’s Alpine for You, the first book in her quirky Passport to Peril mystery series, starring Emily Andrews and her Nana from Iowa. Five exciting attractions that await you!

1.      A lovely locale: Take a nine-day trip to Switzerland, brought to you exclusively by Golden Swiss Triangle Tours!

2.       Delightfully eccentric characters: Emily Andrews, recent divorcée whose ex-husband stole her underwear; “Nana” Marion Sippel, Emily’s grandmother, who just won the lottery and enjoys solving mysteries based on her knowledge of reality TV; a host of Iowan retirees from Nana’s travel group; and, Mr. Nunzio, a resident of Switzerland who bares his bare bottom to unsuspecting fellow senior citizens!

3.       Kills: Triangle Tour escort Andy Simon, a man who was “as randy as a mountain goat on Viagra, hitting on every miss—Swiss or otherwise—within striking distance” (back cover of book) has been snuffed out and the murderer is still on the loose!

4.       Thrills and chills: Will Emily Andrews ever find true love again or will she die having only a can of air freshener and a very high-tech Swiss Army knife with 29 different functions as her weapons of defense?!

5.       No stress: Have all the fun of travel without the added headaches (such as paying for an exorbitantly expensive room that has no windows, hotel staff losing luggage, or having to eat something from “a bowl that was filled with Elmer’s Glue with raisins” (p. 41) because a big group of Iowan retirees ate all the eggs and bacon for breakfast.

Cost?  FREE!! (at your local library) Try out Maddy Hunter’s Passport to Peril mystery series today!
Book 1: Alpine for You
Book 2: Top o’ the Mournin'
Book 3: Pasta Imperfect
Book 4: Hula Done It
Book 5: G’ Day to Die
Book 6: Norway to Hide
Book 7: Dutch Me Deadly
Book 8: Bonnie of Evidence
Book 9: Fleur de Lies
Book 10: From Bad to Wurst