Monday, December 21, 2015

December 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

December 21, 2015

Playing with Fire
By Tess Gerritsen


Grave is an Italian musical term used to describe a piece of music that is played solemnly or very slowly. In Playing with Fire, Tess Gerritsen gradually and painstakingly reveals the horrors and secrets from which main characters Julie and Lorenzo suffer. 

Julie Ansdell, a violinist from present day Boston, discovers a rare score of a waltz titled "Incendio" in an antique shop in Venice, Italy. With just a glance of the notes in Incendio, Julie can sense the urgency and beauty of the music and decides she must own it. Yet, Incendio is not just any piece of music; from the moment Julie purchases it, Julie is plagued with unsettling feelings, such as noticing the distinctly chilling temperature inside the antique shop, and the disturbing behavior of her once angelic three year-old daughter that seem to be stirred up whenever Julie plays the piece. Soon, Julie can trust no one, and those she loves become a danger to both her physical and mental state.

As Julie sets out to unearth the possible malignant powers of Incendio, the reader is plunged into a new story that takes place several years before the Holocaust in Venice, Italy. Gerritsen, inspired by true historical events, introduces the reader to a violinist named Lorenzo who is born to generations of Jewish Italians who live and breathe music. Lorenzo and his family are celebrated for their talent and contributions to their community, and although their fellow Jews are being hunted and terrorized in other parts of Europe, they do not believe that they could experience these same horrors in their beloved Venice. However, Venice, like the rest of Europe during the late 1930s, is not immune to the infestation of hatred and cruelty against the Jews. 

In spite of the gravity of subject matter in this part of the book, Gerritsen steadfastly reminds her readers about the power of Incendio and all the ways in which humans are connected to each other. Towards the end of the book, Playing with Fire explodes into a feverish pace as Gerritsen unravels how Julie and Lorenzo’s stories connect. The knots of tension continue to tighten leaving the reader grasping for the book’s initial tempo and a moment to process all that has been revealed. 

Grave (pronounced gra-veh): Music played in a slow and solemn manner.

Grave (pronounced grave): Serious, severe, momentous, somber, grim, dire, fateful, weighty. 

Art imitates life in Playing with Fire.

--Cara

December 15, 2015 

Life After Life 
By Kate Atkinson 

As one would suspect, as a librarian, I am surrounded by avid readers. Periodically, a certain gotta-read title seems to grab everyone’s attention at once and you start to see and hear about it everywhere: the book magically migrates from desk to desk, you walk into conversations about it…For a while, it was The Martian by Andy Weir; then it was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. For the past year or so, the book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson has been meandering into my mindscape, ever more so lately since its sequel A God in Ruins was just published. 

So I gave in, checked it out, and found myself turning the pages, trying to understand why I was reading and rereading the birth and sometimes simultaneous death of a perfectly-formed child named Ursula during a snowstorm on February 11, 1910. Then I realized, that’s the magic of this novel: simply read each section as it unfolds and don’t overthink it, you don’t need to work that hard! Atkinson’s gift is seamlessly conjuring up one believable, captivating tale after another, each one chronicling a different version of Ursula’s life depending on the tiniest shift in circumstances. In so doing, she not only examines the age-old argument of fate versus free will, she also takes the reader on a tour of World Wars I and II, as experienced by members of an upper-middle class British family. (I have hardly read a more compelling account of what living with and dealing with the aftermath of daily bombings was like for civilians). 

The author wanted to call this book “Lunch Date with Hitler,” but the publishers wouldn't have it. Based on that alone, you might not be surprised to find this book is both entertaining and profound. Highly recommended for fiction readers interested in world events of the first half of the twentieth century. 

--Christina

December 9, 2015

Tiger Eyes 

By Judy Blume 

In a fit of nostalgia I recently decided to read a Judy Blume novel. As an adolescent, the only one of her novels I ever read was the inimitable Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (If you’ve never read it, it is the quintessential puberty book for young girls). I decided I’d read one of Blume’s less well- known titles, Tiger Eyes, which was semi-recently made into an underwhelming film. 

Tiger Eyes is about a young teenage girl, Davey, whose father is killed in a robbery at his store. Davey, her mother and her younger brother are all traumatized by the violent tragedy. Her mother decides to move them away to New Mexico to stay with family while they learn how to deal. Rather than dealing with their problems, though, the family falls into a rut. Davey’s mother develops a drug problem and allows her sister and brother-in-law to take care of her children while she shuts out the real world. Davey is scared and angry and, on top of that, is forced to try to act normal at a new school. She worries that her younger brother is already forgetting their father. Davey finds healing through friendship with an older boy named Wolf whom she meets while hiking a canyon. Wolf’s father is dying and it’s this loss that helps Davey to confront her own. 

In the end, everything wraps up in a neat little package giving the book a very “afterschool special” vibe. Davey and her mother talk out their issues over a pitcher of sangria (because in the 80s I guess it was considered okay for a fifteen year-old to drink alcohol in a restaurant) and they move back to their home in Atlantic City. As corny as this book was (and it was, oh, so corny), I think it has an enduring value for young adults. If you have a teen or tween in your life who is struggling with a family tragedy, this story might help them to heal. Reading about Davey’s reaction to her loss—the emptiness, the numbness, the anger—might help young readers to understand that whatever they’re feeling is okay. 

--Chelsea

December 2, 2015

The Lunar Chronicles
By Marissa Meyer

Love fairy tales? What about dystopian fiction? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then this series is definitely for you! It takes the stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White to a whole new universe.

Now that you know the characters, here's the when and where: The story takes place after World War V, as there was a III and a IV preceding the action. With the planet in pieces after these two world wars, the stories are set in a New Asia, specifically in the Commonwealth of New Beijing. 

In New Beijing, we meet Cinder, who of course has an evil stepmother who belittles her, an evil stepsister who despises her, but also another stepsister who tries to keep the peace with Cinder. Through her distant relationship with the only family she has ever known, Cinder struggles to stay out of trouble, avoid the Prince of New Beijing who she obviously likes after one brief encounter, and attempt to piece together her past in order to help save not only her future but the future of the world and her community, Lunar. Did I mention that she is part cyborg? Cinder can only remember pieces of her past since she is part human and part cyborg, meaning that in order to uncover her past she needs to figure out who or what made her the way she is.

In Book Two, we meet Red Riding Hood, or in this case, Scarlet. Scarlet is from France and when her grandmother suddenly goes missing, it is up to Scarlet and a mysterious stranger to figure out where she went and how to save her. Scarlet is forced to join forces with one of the creatures that took her grandmother, Wolf. Wolf is a Lunar soldier whose DNA has been modified and enhanced with that of a wolf, a.k.a. the ultimate killing machine. After convincing Scarlet that he is not the enemy and simply an outcast, the two set off on an adventure through the cities of France in order to track down Scarlet’s grandmother who it appears has some type of connection with Cinder.

In the third installment of this series, we board a spaceship that houses a small girl who has never seen anything beyond the walls of said spaceship. Meet Cress (Rapunzel): a highly intelligent and gifted child who can hack and infiltrate any system from her captor's spaceship. Being held prosoner by a Lunar official, Cress is forced to follow the instructions of Lunar's Evil Queen, Levana. Being overqualified for the job and realizing that freedom is never going to be an option for her, she devises an escape plan that will help her and Cinder and her gang of outlaws as well.

In the final installment of the Lunar chronicles, we are introduced to just one more character before all characters unite to face Levana and win the war that the started in Book One. Winter (Snow White) is the princess of Lunar, the Evil Queen’s stepdaughter, who is as pretty as ever, despite scars that deform her.  Winter is idolized by the people of Lunar and with the power of popularity on her side she can help Cinder and friends to once and for all take down the Queen. Will everyone live happily ever after? 

--Jess 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

November 24, 2015 

Snowblind 
By Christopher Golden 

This book was published during the summer I moved from Georgia to Massachusetts. Having grown up in the Northeast, I’ve always loved winter, so I thought delving into a New England winter story would be the perfect “welcome home” read for me. At first glance, the cover of Snowblind is breathtaking: diamond snowflakes on the trees and the grounds enveloping a warmly lit farmhouse in the distance; a traveler lost in the woods would surely find solace in that house or another, also inviting, along the lane. However, displayed at the top of the cover in sharp contrast to the glow of whites and golds below, lies this review from Stephen King: Instantly involving and deeply scary. It will bring a blizzard to your bones (and your heart) even in the middle of July. Throw away all those old “It was a dark and stormy night” novels: this one is the real deal. And watch out for that last page. It’s a killer…

Still, I thought I could handle this book. Many scary things happen in a blizzard. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and freezing in the car because it won’t start--not at all fun, but not bone-chillingly (except for the possible hypothermia) terrifying. Or, maybe the power goes out at home but there are always candles and flashlights to chase away the darkness, right? 

Not so much in this story. Demons find you outside or inside whether or not you have a car to escape in or lights on at home. Someone or something is haunting these New Englanders and oh, how I wish it was the Yeti. Pure, soundless snow muffles the screams of the dead and the living, and the gorgeous icicles affixed to a sea of trees are knives. 

The weather outside is frightful. You’ve been warned. 

--Cara

November 17, 2015 

Burning Dawn 
By Gena Showalter 

This blog is about to get steamy. Like seriously smutty. The deal: Elin Vale is a prisoner of the Phoenix, an immortal race with the power to regenerate after death. She was ripped from her normal life when the Phoenix killed her family and took her captive. Because Elin is only half-Phoenix, she’s considered an abomination and treated worse than dirt. During her captivity she watches as a Sent One (a race of angel-like beings) is brainwashed and enslaved by Kendra, a powerful noble. Kendra uses the act of love to poison her victims and conquer their wills. Elin decides to help the Sent One, Thane, escape in the hopes that he will take her with him and protect her. As you may guess the pair fall into a passionate romance. The only problem? Thane despises the Phoenix and knows nothing of Elin’s mixed ancestry. Elin is terrified to reveal the truth and face Thane’s powerful wrath. Will they find a way to be together and overcome prejudice?!?!? Find out at your local library! 

Burning Dawn is a stellar example of the paranormal romance genre. Showalter mixes steamy love scenes, angst and just a smidgen of plot and backstory to create the perfect escapist novel. Read it for what it is! 

--Chelsea

November 10, 2015 

A Curious Beginning 
By Deanna Raybourn 

Author Deanna Raybourn is back and has crafted another great adventure in her new book A Curious Beginning! Those of you who have journeyed with Ms. Raybourn in her Lady Julia Grey mystery series are surely in for a treat with this fun read. 

Meet Veronica Stillwell: lepidopterist extraordinaire and reminiscent of Lady Julia in terms of her wit, cleverness, and no-nonsense attitude. The story unfolds with Veronica who has just departed her aunt’s funeral. Her aunt’s death has left her alone in the world but while Veronica is looking forward to her next solo venture, the Vicar, his wife, and the townspeople want nothing more than to see Veronica cast off her rebellious, bold spirit and settle down with the humdrum husband they have already hand-selected for her. Veronica will have none of this. No sooner has Veronica escaped the pitiful looks and tut-tut headshakes of her neighbors does she return to her home in the midst of an intruder ransacking her meager possessions in search of something. Not one to shy away from danger, Veronica makes a surprise launch at the intruder-easily a man twice her size- wielding a sword stick and chasing him out of her house. The intruder clumsily tries to get the upper hand remembering his size compared to hers, grabs her wrists, and yanks her toward his waiting getaway carriage while she bites at him. End of story? Hardly! It is just the beginning. Why is Veronica in danger? She scarcely has a penny to her name and will soon be the town spinster so what would anyone want with her? 

Although A Curious Beginning has its slow moments (Ms. Raybourn packs a lot into this 300-plus page story), the tension constantly builds, suspenseful moments are always around the corner, and I came to care deeply about Veronica and her friends, especially one who has a lot of similarities to Nicholas Brisbane (see Lady Julia Grey mystery series for more about this rakish gentleman). A Curious Beginning was certainly a different take on the traditional whodunit, yet it was satisfying all the way through. 

This was just the beginning of my discovering a new companion in Veronica Stillwell, but I certainly hope it’s not the end!

--Cara

November 3, 2015
Marked
By P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
What if you could leave everything behind? Say goodbye to your fake best friend, who, by the way, secretly has a huge crush on your boyfriend; say goodbye to your quarterback, football- loving, day-drinking, entirely immature boyfriend; and definitely say adios to your evil stepdad with his “God is good” attitude and the mother you used to know.
If the opportunity presented itself, would you leap at the chance to try on another life? Unfortunately, choices in life are not always an option for everyone, and for Zoe, there is no choice. Zoe has been “marked” and when people realize that she has been marked, she begins to see the true nature of her family and friends, which is exactly what she has been trying not to do for the last sixteen years of her life. If you are marked,, you are a vampire-in-training and you either begin training or die.
Forced to confront her overly religious stepfather and her follow-the-leader mother, Zoe must show them her mark and hope they will understand. One way or another, her old life is over and she must accept the darkness, enter a new school, and start training to become a vampire. Zoe’s life has been completely turned upside down and it is up to her to find where she belongs and make the choice to either go forth or be doomed.  
--Jess

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

October 26, 2015 

The Selection 
By Kiera Cass 

Ever wonder what Cinderella would have been like if she lived in a dystopian society years after the fall of the United States? And what if she already had a boyfriend before she meets her Prince Charming? Author Kiera Cass wonders just that, and takes the classic Cinderella story and spins it into a futuristic, tough love novel. 


In her world, American Singer is a member of the lower class, the fifth class, to be exact. Within this class reside the entertainers: singers, performers, artists, musicians, etc. The lower your class, the less you have and the harder you work; the higher your class, the less you work and the more you have (sound familiar?) America, or “Mer” as her boyfriend calls her, is being pressured by all those around her, including her patronizing mother, to join in “the selection.” The selection is a way for the king’s children to marry into society. Everyone has a chance to be the next king or queen since the royal house has only given birth to a son, the prince. Therefore, Prince Maxon is presented the challenge of sorting through and eliminating 35 ladies, so that he can find his one true love. 

Some may be asking why a Prince would not marry a Princess? The realm’s logic is if the royal house marries someone of the commonwealth versus someone of higher status,it will prevent uprisings. Hence, the practice of bringing randomly chosen women into the palace and providing money to their families in their absence while he makes his decision. Who will be eliminated? Who will be chosen? Who will be the next Queen? Will it be America Singer?

--Jess

October 20, 2015 

Refuse to Choose 
By Barbara Sher 

I remember when I first set eyes on Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose. I was in my career counselor’s office just days shy of graduating college and I had no idea what to do with my life. I should have known I would eventually struggle with this decision since I waited until the last minute to declare a major and, beforehand, happily took classes in theology, African American history, poetry, music, and Italian. I sighed in defeat inside the office slowly realizing that even though I chose my major (Spanish) because I loved the musicality of the language and was fascinated by Spanish culture, I didn’t actually want to pursue a career in it because I was too scared to teach or communicate fluently in another language. Oops. 

So there I sat. 

Many of colorful books in the career center were focused on interesting fields such as childcare, counseling, theatre, and music. I mistakenly believed that choosing just one of those careers meant missing out on another. However, I chose right when I selected Refuse to Choose from the bookshelf, a seemingly radical manual that embraced the idea that there isn’t always just one career path for everyone and that some young adults, and career changers of any age, may instead be more fulfilled by sampling the many varieties of the working world. Sher further illustrates these ideas by introducing the concepts of “scanners” and “divers.” Divers, as Sher defines, tend to be satisfied with choosing just one area of interest. Divers will often spend their whole lives “diving” into one subject area and will be passionate about going deeper and deeper to learn more about their chosen specialty, scanners, on the other hand, have “intense curiosity about numerous [often] unrelated subjects.” Sher goes on to say that “to scanners the world is a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pockets” (p. 5). 

If any of this sounds like it might relate to you, dear reader, then know that you’re not alone. Sher shows how being a scanner is actually a gift and even outlines several different kinds of scanners (for example, the “double agent”, the “sampler”, or the “Jack-of-all-trades”). She then identifies different ways that scanners can survive in the real world and still earn a living, such as combining many of their interests into one job, taking a “good enough job” that pays the bills, isn’t too stressful and then allows scanners to easily engage in their hobbies when they’re not working, pursuing interests without needing them to become careers, or starting one’s own business. 

Refuse to Choose is chock full of revelations and advice for those who want to embrace being a scanner and discover how to cultivate a life full of the many riches of learning and the joy in pursuing a myriad of interests. 

--Cara

October 13, 2015 

Longbourn 
By Jo Baker 

I have a small obsession with Jane Austen. I say small because it’s not like I have a life-size cutout of Mr. Darcy or anything…but I have read all of her novels multiple times and know a fair amount about her life and times. Like most Janeites, I acknowledge Pride and Prejudice as her greatest work, although I waffle on which novel is my personal favorite. (Hint: it’s never Mansfield Park). One aspect of the Austen world that I’ve never delved into is the plethora of fan works that have sprung from her creations. I’ve always emphatically contended that the original works are enough. I don’t need to know about what Mr. Darcy wrote in his diary while he visited Netherfield or what happened to Mary Bennet after the book ends (at least not from other authors, I already know in my own imagination). So that explains why I hesitated for so long in deciding to read Longbourn by Jo Baker. 

In the end I’m glad that I finally read it. Baker’s novel is lyrical, richly detailed and intricately plotted. She engages the reader with elegant language and well-drawn characters and keeps us interested with the slowly revealed tangle of secrets that entwines the servants with the Bennet family. We’re first introduced to the housemaid, Sarah, a young woman who dreams of exotic faraway places and freedom from servitude. Her humdrum life is finally shaken up with the arrival of a young man to serve as footman. But James is a taciturn disappointment and she instead finds herself drawn to the beautiful Ptolemy, servant to the Bingley household and a former slave. Sarah works under the guidance of the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, whose close relationship with Mr. Bennet allows her to exert more influence over him than his own wife. As the novel progresses we glimpse the history of each character and discover how their lives are connected. 

In her postscript Jo Baker explains that the main characters in her novel are little more than “ghosts” in Pride and Prejudice. They exist in the background filling supporting roles within the larger story. Baker tells their story. While the Bennet sisters fall in love, Sarah discovers her own love interests. While Lydia’s flight with Mr. Wickham torments her family, the servants fret over James’s disappearance. What struck me the most was that even though Sarah and the other servants are limited by financial exigencies, in other ways they have more freedom than the gentle ladies they serve. Sarah doesn’t have to wait for her man to bend the knee and profess his feelings; she can take matters into her own hands. 

WPL's Pages and Palates Book Club will discuss this book in November. Join us on November 14th at 2:30 pm or November 18th at 3pm! 

--Chelsea

October 6, 2015

The Good Girl

By Mary Kubica

Opening with a mother’s realization that her semi-estranged daughter may be missing, Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl quickly spins the reader in several directions with flashbacks, multiple character perspectives and a deceptively simple kidnapping plot.  This adrenaline-pumped thriller keeps you frantically flipping until you reach the final page (and the final revelation).

Kubica takes a unique storytelling approach to the crime thriller, starting in medias res with the return of Mia, the daughter, after months of captivity.  She suffers from stress-induced amnesia and the people surrounding her struggle to put together the puzzle pieces of what happened during the months she was gone.  The reader learns bits and pieces through flashbacks although we don’t get Mia’s own perspective until near the end.  The point of view alternates with each chapter between Mia’s mother, the detective working the case and the kidnapper.  By the end of the novel you’ll find yourself rethinking the motives of almost every character.

I recommend this novel for fans of popular literary thrillers like
Gone Girl or those looking for an introduction to the genre.


--Chelsea

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pit Lit: A Little List of Books on the “World’s Most Misunderstood Breed”

Did you know that October 25th is National Pitbull Awareness Day?  This day was created to bring positive attention to a misunderstood breed of dog.  It’s a day for myth busting and advocacy.  You can use it as an opportunity to learn more about the breed and the challenges these dogs face including dog fighting and breed specific legislation.  We’ve created a list of online resources and books for those interested in learning more about these lovable dogs.

Books


There is a lot of information out there about pit bulls portraying them in an unfairly negative light.  Here is a list of some suggested titles to enlighten and educate:


Book Jacket
The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster
Ken Foster is a pit bull advocate and founder of the Sula Foundation, a group of pit bull owners and friends who strive to promote responsible pit bull ownership in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Dogs Who Found Me was Foster's first book about dogs and it follows his experience rescuing strays throughout his life and multiple disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.






Book Jacket
I'm a Good Dog by Ken Foster
Another title by Ken Foster (he's a wonderfully accessible writer in addition to being a tireless advocate)!  I'm a Good Dog is a tribute to pit bulls which features photographs and essays about the breed.



Oogy by Larry Levin
This heart-wrenching biography of a beloved family pet is evidence of the pit bull's remarkable perseverance and ability to forgive despite abuse.  Oogy was found, abandoned and maimed, as a puppy.  He was used as a bait dog by dog fighters and might not have survived if not for the kindness of an animal hospital employee who convinced the shelter not to euthanize him.  Oogy was adopted by the author and his family and went on to a new life as a gentle family pet and therapy dog.
Book Jacket
Wallace: the underdog who conquered a sport, saved a marriage, and championed pit bulls--one flying disc at a time by Jim Gorant
Jim Gorant's account follows the life of Wallace, an abandoned pit bull who was almost euthanized in the shelter because of his aggressive behavior toward people and other dogs.  When he is adopted by a couple of "dog nerds" he blossoms and becomes a star in competitive frisbee.







The lost dogs: Michael Vick's pit bulls and their tale of rescue and redemption by Jim Gorant

Jim Gorant offers a closer look into the investigation of Michael Vick's dog fighting operation as well as the rehabilitation of the dogs who were his victims.







If you're interested in finding more books about pit bulls you can ask a librarian or check out our catalog.

Online Resources

ASPCA - The Truth About Pit Bulls
Sula Foundation
Pinups for Pitbulls
Worcester Animal Rescue League










Monday, September 28, 2015

September 2015 Book Recommendations

September 28, 2015

The Host 
By Stephenie Meyer 

Ever have that book that makes you so anxious that you are yelling at the character to “run” even though you know they cannot hear you? If you like fast-paced action thrillers from the first page to the last, The Host is for you. 


When aliens perceive our planet and its inhabitants to be violent creatures capable of starting wars over nonsense and killing their neighbors, they decide to take action into their own hands by entering the minds of Earth’s inhabitants. With the world at their fingertips and humanity on the brink of extinction, what else can one do but try to survive? 

After she witnesses her parent’s demise and the world as she knows it is crumbling, it is up to Melanie Stryder to save her only remaining family, her brother. With just the two of them hiding from the creatures that took over their planet, it is up to her to keep them both safe. When night falls, Melanie uses the cover of darkness to scavenge for supplies, but despite her best efforts and the promise to her little brother to return, the worst happens. Melanie must take what happens to her next and fight for what she believes in, to save not only herself but her brother and the people she loves. Unfortunately, this means that she must endanger her own life even more than she already has. 

Jump into this thriller and see how the hopes and strength of one girl can save more than she would have ever imagined! 

--Jess

September 21, 2015 

The Choice 
By Nicholas Sparks 

I am not very good at making choices, from what to wear, to what to do, to what to read, so when it came to reading Nicholas Sparks’ book The Choice, I thought it might help my indecisiveness. Let me tell you now that I was waaay wrong.

Life is about many things, but one could say that finding someone to share life with is on the top of many people’s to-do list…or not. For Travis Parker, life is about living it up with backyard BBQs and hanging out with his buddies. Of course living it up with the buddies can only last for so long, right? You would think the eagerness to move on in life would just be itching away at Travis, so when a new gorgeous redheaded neighbor moves in one would think Travis would make his move. But alas, life is not that simple, for of course the gorgeous next door neighbor is already spoken for. Gabby Holland has a steady boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, but when two roads cross is it fate to stay the course you are on, or jump to another one? 

This heart-gripping story will bring tears to even the most indifferent readers. Once the scene is set and the pieces fall into place, the protagonist is left with a decision that would make most people question not only their hearts, but their entire lives. 

--Jess

September 14, 2015

The String Diaries
By Stephen Lloyd Jones

Every now and then I crave reading a scary, suspenseful book. I suppose you can call it my guilty pleasure. Tucking under the covers on a stormy night while my breath catches and my heart pounds along with the characters, as monsters seemingly real, yet, thankfully imagined, terrorize me...The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones met all of my guilty pleasure necessities and more.

In the very first pages of this creepy thriller, an SUV tears down a black highway. A wife grips the steering wheel, her husband’s blood spills out from wounds all over the passenger seat while their little girl sleeps soundlessly in the back. Time is running out. The road ahead is winding and weaving. Is he behind them? They pray not. Hope and each other are their only anchors. Their stalker, dripping with the stench of ancient wickedness has been gifted with longevity- and with monsters like him prowling through the spans of time there’s no need for vampires.

Frighten yourself with an age-old tale of obsession that preys on the conviction that wants and dark desires that must be filled no matter what the cost.  Brace yourself for a relentless ride where identities shift, time is both fleeting and endless, and trust and distortion are weapons.

Be forewarned: you’ll either finish String Diaries because you can’t wait to see what happens or because you desperately want to get off the ride.

--Cara

Thursday, September 17, 2015

BIG Library Read with OverDrive E-books

From October 7th through the 21st, readers from around the world will be able to enjoy the same eBook titles at the same time--a global book club!

Yes, the Big Library Read is returning in October with two titles. OverDrive will make two popular eBooks available to public libraries and schools for guaranteed lending. During this two-week program, the Big Library Read titles are available to borrow through CWMARS digital catalog with no waiting list! All you need is a library card or student ID to get started. 

So what are the books? The genre this time around is Young Adult and the titles are The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley and In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat Winters. Join in this worldwide reading event! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Find Your Next Book with Novelist Plus

Figuring out what’s next on your reading list has never been easier, or more entertaining, with access to Novelist Plus, the premier Readers Advisory resource. Whether you are a librarian, a teacher, a bookseller or a bookworm, there is something to peak your interest here. Lucky for you, with a Worcester Public library card, you can access this database from wherever you have Internet access just by visiting www.worcpublib.org and clicking on Online Databases. Novelist Plus boasts many browsable options, including Author Read-Alikes, expert articles such as “Books to Movies”, an extensive collection of book discussion guides, and Curricular Connections, an element that would certainly augment any educator’s lesson plans.  The homepage presents an array of Recommended Reading lists, arranged by genre and age group, plus there is a keyword search box for the person who needs to retrieve a book title about which they only remember a few details.  Perhaps most engaging is the outstanding “I’m in the mood for books that are…”, a feature in which you can search by the following descriptors (or appeals in Novelist-speak): Nostalgic and Bittersweet, Offbeat and Witty, Fast-paced and Strong Female, or Nonlinear and Compelling.  You can also customize a personal reading list by choosing your own appeals—have fun!

Free Adaptive Technology Training from Worcester Talking Book Library

WPL is happy to announce the Worcester Talking Book Library’s Fall 2015 series of free adaptive technology training workshops. These will take place in the 3rd Floor Computer Lab at the Worcester Public Library Main Branch on Saturday mornings from 9:45 AM to 11:45 AM. There will be four sessions as outlined below:

Saturday September 26: Topics in Outlook
Creating messages, navigating folders, attaching documents, and several other Outlook tools.

Saturday October 17: Excel Basics
Spreadsheet navigation, composing simple formulas, cell formatting, inserting and deleting rows and columns, sorting columns alphabetically and by value, automatic reading of column and row titles with the define names command, and adjusting column width.

Saturday November 7: To Be Determined
To be decided by the consensus of participants from previous sessions.

Saturday December 5: To Be Determined
To be decided by the consensus of participants from previous sessions.

To register for these workshops, as well as to seek any additional information, please contact Jim Izatt or call the Worcester Talking Book Library at 1-800-762-0085 or 1-508-799-1730.

The only prerequisite for participation is a minimum typing skill level of approximately 20 words per minute. Please remember to bring a pair of personal headphones so you can work on one of the lab computers. Reminders and registration requests for subsequent workshops will be sent out shortly before each of those workshops.

Please do not hesitate to share this message with someone whom you think might be interested in attending this workshop. Thank you for your interest!

Monday, August 31, 2015

August 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

August 31, 2015 

The Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters 

Having never read Sarah Waters before, I had no idea what I was getting into when I selected this book from the New Fiction shelves. The title was familiar, and I had heard it was good somewhere…however, YOU, dear reader, are being warned: it IS good, but once it gets going, you will not being able to put it down! 

Place in time: England, 1922. This book starts off as a cozy historical novel about an upper class widow and her adult daughter Frances pulling together to survive the post-World War I economy, the men in the family having deceased in or during wartime and leaving their finances ashamble. To preserve money, and appearances, they decide to take in lodgers or “paying guests,” and while both of them are uneasy about living with strangers in their home, they cheerfully put on a brave face (or a stiff upper lip) and welcome young couple, Leonard and Lilian Barber. Soon the awkwardness of having tenants transforms into a close friendship between Frances and Lilian, and Frances’s “interesting” past becomes the conduit through which this period-piece becomes both a love story and a thriller as well. 

Waters’ talents are many: creating care-worthy characters, setting a scene and building suspense. Also notable is her ability to convey the erotic without veering into the tawdry. Mystery, Masterpiece Theater, and Delta of Venus and more, consider The Paying Guests

 --Christina

August 24, 2015 

Flex 
By Ferrett Steinmetz 

When you mess with physics, there are consequences. That is the premise of Ferrett Steinmetz’s stellar debut urban fantasy Flex. Some consider the existence of magic, or ‘mancy, an affront to the laws of nature and when nature is affronted She fights back. For every improbable act of ‘mancy, there is a price to pay, a stroke of bad luck that rebounds back onto the ‘mancer’s life. The cost is equal to the act. A bit of artificial whimsy might only get you a broken nail or a flat tire. But serious ‘mancy brings on serious blow back, or “Flux”. 

Paul Tsabo is an ex-cop turned insurance agent—the most unlikely mage imaginable. But one day his obsession with contracts, forms and obscure legal code turns into ‘mancy, bureaucromancy to be exact. His magic enables him to draw up top secret documents from blank pieces of paper. He can finagle rental agreements, target criminals by accessing police records; he can even send faxes back in time. What he can’t do is save his daughter, Aliyah, from painful and disfiguring burns that result from the massive flux of another magic user. The novel revolves around Paul’s mission to get his daughter the treatments she needs and also take revenge against the ‘mancer called Anathema who is flooding the city with unstable Flex, a drug made of distilled magic. It was Anathema’s Flex that caused Aliyah’s burns. Paul teams up with a spunky videogamemancer named Valentine to get the job done. 

What a page turner! Somehow a book about paperwork-magic is action-packed. Steinmetz’s humor is pitch perfect for readers immersed in nerd culture. The hilarious Valentine is a much needed foil to Paul’s drama and turmoil. Best of all, there’s a sequel coming out this fall! Don’t get left behind, this series is sure to be popular.

--Chelsea

August 17, 2015
At just over 300 pages, Julia Pierpont’s debut novel, Among the Ten Thousand Things, is slim enough to take with you to the beach.  While the subject matter (the aftermath of infidelity) is a little bleak, the author’s lyrical yet sparse prose and vibrant dialogue make it a quick read. 
Jack Shanley is a respected New York artist with an ex-dancer wife, a teenage son and an eleven-year-old daughter.  He loses all of this through a chain of events set off by the arrival of a cardboard box full of printed e-mails between himself and his mistress.  The box is delivered to his apartment building and picked up by his daughter, Kay.  The remainder of the novel explores how this event is interpreted by each character and how they change as a result.
Most fascinating to me was the impact on the youngest child.  Kay can’t understand why everyone is so upset if, as her mother tells her, her father’s actions mean nothing.  Is this just how the grown up world works? Families are broken because it feels good for one person?  Kay’s attempts to incorporate this new information into her childish worldview make up some of the book’s most interesting scenes.  While Kay struggles to understand this new adult word, her mother battles doubt and guilt.  Can she really start over?  Should she try to make it work? She’d known for a while that Jack was unfaithful but having the dirty evidence thrown in front of her and forced onto her children is another matter.  Meanwhile the teenager, Simon, tries to experience the milestones of adolescence and struggles against the taint of his parents’ failing marriage.  Finally, Jack goes on a journey which leads him to his childhood home and a confrontation with his troubled youth.  Along the way he indulges in further infidelity, a proof that he perhaps never emotionally matured beyond his child years.
One troubling aspect of the book is the shadow-like figure of “the girl.”  Jack’s mistress is only named once and is never allowed to speak for herself on the page (except through her message to Deb and the correspondence with Jack).  As I read I couldn’t help but imagine something terrible befalling this young woman.  Among the Ten Thousand Things is a captivating novel dotted with moments of humor and grace. Recommended for fans of Meg Wolitzer and Tim Perrotta.  
--Chelsea

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

July 27, 2015 

Speak: A Novel
By Louisa Hall 

A reluctant young bride from the English countryside traverses the Atlantic with her new husband during the 1600s; Alan Turing, father of Artificial Intelligence, makes a penpal out of his lab mate’s mother; a long-married computer science professor and his Holocaust-survivor wife talk to their computers but not to each other; a little girl bonds with her BabyBot; a programmer reflects on his world-changing invention from the confines of a jail cell. What do all these people have in common? 

Through these five interweaving story lines, each presented in its own format, i.e., diary entries, interview transcript, Speak explores the idea summed up so succinctly by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Also questioned: Is it the speaking, the listening, or the compulsion to communicate in the first place that makes us human, even if we’re communicating with machines? A page-turning, poetic, brilliant novel.

 --Christina

July 21, 2015
Scent of the Missing
By Susannah Charleson
If you’re looking for some page-turning non-fiction to add to your beach tote look no further than Susannah Charleson’s Scent of the Missing, an account of life, love and work with a search and rescue dog.  Charleson works with her partner, Puzzle, as a member of MARK-9, a volunteer group based in Dallas, Texas.  Her memoir not only describes the ways that dogs help locate missing persons, it also illustrates the bond between humans and dogs and details the thrilling, dangerous work of search and rescue.
In addition to demystifying the workings of the canine nose, the book alternates between rescue missions and exploring the relationship between the author and her rookie search dog. Chapters that deal with individual search stories are thrilling.  In the first episode, Charleson recounts the adrenaline-fueled search for a missing woman, “Today we were sent to clear more ‘hot spots’—places where bodies have been dumped before.  Shrouded, ugly places…scarred from previous events, but not this girl, this time.  All day the dogs have been telling us: Not here.  Not here.  Not here.”  Charleson and Puzzle’s relationship evolves throughout the book.  The author admits feeling doubtful of Puz’s loyalty and affection in the beginning but by the time the dog matures, they establish a trusting bond through the work.  When Charleson is forced to train another handler to run Puzzle because of her own health issues, the reader feels her heartbreak over the decision.
Charleson’s writing reflects her life in search and rescue.  It’s a mix of urgent suspense and tender affection for her partner.  I couldn’t put this book down until I’d reached the last page.  I hope you’ll pick it up soon at the library!

--Chelsea

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

June 29, 2015 

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War 
By Lynsey Addario 

Browsing our collection of new non-fiction, I opened a book at page 232 and landed smack dab in a riveting account of a fierce firefight in the Korengal Valley being covered by combat photographer Lynsey Addario. I did not recognize her name. I knew of the Korengal Valley; I knew of Sebastian Junger’s documentary about Restrepo, a Korengal outpost and had seen him speak at the Kennedy Library;I had read about a Captain Kearney in a New York Times Magazine article; so, I had a dim familiarity with the scene traceable to that 2008 NYT Magazine article written by Elizabeth Rubin. The pictures accompanying that article were photographed by Lynsey Addario. I had not paid much attention to the photographer’s byline. My mistake. 

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (Penguin Press: New York, 2015, ISBN 978-1-59420-537-8) by Lynsey Addario is a biography of Addario’s life with a large focus on her many years spent in places in the Middle East that, for most of us, were television news stories from areas such as Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Syria and others spots we would not want to be. It is also a story about how seeing a Sebastio Salgrado photojournalism exhibit while working for the Buenos Aires Herald affected her budding career. Addario was basically raised in Westport, CT by her hairdresser parents in a very free-wheeling extended “family” scene. After finally getting to work for the New York Times, her reputation grew exponentially as she went into some of the most dangerous turf of this century. It is also the story of her relationships with some men while chasing after pictures to tell the “real” story--the human impact--of these conflicts on women and families. Addario’s book is an intense, dramatic, and often suspenseful page turner. It is also an important mirror into events which still remain, unfortunately, quite current. She was shot at, kidnapped, escaped, and in the end, survived… 

I don’t want to tell any more. Her story is very well written. It is an important story. Personally, I feel that her book reaches the levels of some of the best combat photography reporting I have ever read. And one last thing – I read very recently that Steven Spielberg is going to make a film version of Addario’s book and that Jennifer Lawrence will play the role of Addario. I hope they do it justice. 

--Bill

June 15, 2015

God Help the Child 
By Toni Morrison 

“What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” 

Because I loved Beloved, I periodically attempt Toni Morrison’s novels. Admittedly, some of them, like Paradise, are so thick with magic realism I feel like I need a machete to whack through the prose and figure out the plot (I suppose Cliff Notes would do). However, her latest work, God Help the Child, while still employing a small bit of magic realism, is blessedly readable. 

Unlike Morrison’s past work, this tale is a modern one, featuring an ad exec protagonist . Essentially, the story examines how adults display or deny the long lasting after-effects of childhood trauma. Bride, because her skin is “blue black”, is such an embarrassment to her light-skinned mother, she is raised to call her Sweetness, in lieu of any maternal assignation. Withholding and emotionally distant, Sweetness’s treatment of Bride, however well-intentioned, compels Bride, to take extreme action to win a morsel of her affection. Flash forward to Bride’s volcanic love affair with Booker, a mysterious loner with an equally painful past of his own, and the reader sees just how deeply the psyches and hearts of children are imprinted despite their often-noted resilience. 

Less than two-hundred pages, this slim volume is a relatively easy read. But Morrison’s trademark lyricism is showcased, as she tosses off phrasing like the master of the form that she is. And her characterization of seven-times married Queen is not to be missed. If you are a Morrison fan, check it out. 

--Christina

June 8, 2015

Uprooted
By Naomi Novik


In my opinion, one of the most important elements of any fantasy novel is the seamless joining of plot and world building. Nothing irks me more as a reader than being taken out of the story in order to understand the background details. A good fantasy author will entwine these details into the tale without drawing attention to the effort. This tricky feat is beautifully accomplished by Naomi Novik in her newest novel, Uprooted


Agnieszka has lived in a small valley village all her life. And all her life she has lived under the shadow of the Wood, a malevolent forest full of dark magic and fell beasts. All that stands between the valley denizens and destruction is the protection of a powerful wizard, the Dragon. All he asks in return is one village girl every ten years. The girls he takes are not harmed. They only serve him for the agreed period and then leave the Valley forever. The book opens with the choosing and, predictably, our protagonist is the one. But Nieszka isn’t like the other girls. She has a spark of magic that the Dragon recognizes. He trains her as an apprentice and together they learn the secrets of the Wood’s origin and attempt to stop it once and for all. 

At first glance this sounds kind of familiar: the chosen one who discovers she has magical powers she never knew about. But the novel quickly deepens into a complex fantasy featuring court intrigue, highly developed characters and a fascinating backstory. Nieszka’s style of magic is earth-based. A spell is as simple as planting her feet in the dirt and speaking a single word with feeling. Novik’s writing is as simple and wonderful as this magic. She creates a truly terrifying villain in the Wood that can walk in the guise of loved ones and plant corruption abroad. The romantic tension between the Dragon and Agnieszka grows steadily and believably without detracting from the drama of the overarching story. 

The sexuality and dark themes in this novel mark it as adult fiction however there is sure to be a lot of crossover appeal with young adults. As far as I can tell Uprooted is a standalone novel with no sequel in the works. You might find this refreshing in these days of abundant trilogies. It’s nice to read a fantasy novel without feeling obligated to read its ten sequels as well.

--Chelsea


June 1, 2015
Jane Austen: A Life
By Claire Tomalin
Many Jane-ites share a sense of proprietary ownership over their favorite author.  Perhaps it comes from reading her novels over and over.  There’s an intimacy between the author and her devotees that exists in spite of the distance in time.  This can make the relative lack of information regarding Austen’s life incredibly frustrating to her fans.  We know that she lived a quiet country life that, according to her favorite brother, was“…a life of usefulness, literature, and religion, was not by any means a life of event.”  But we also know, from her own novels, that a quiet life can be just as full of sorrow, joy, disasters and miracles as even the most eventful one.  What every Austen fan yearns for is a candid glimpse at the author’s life unmediated by relatives’ foggy memories or well-meaning agendas.  Claire Tomalin attempts to provide this by presenting all the evidence and filling in the rest.
There are some points that most fans are familiar with: the youthful flirtation with Tom Lefroy, the famous one-night engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither.  We expect to find these--Jane’s only known real life romances--delicious.  But I was struck even more by her family relationships:  her brother Henry, the ambitious flirt, who just might have inspired Austen’s famous bad boys Wickham, Willoughby and Crawford; her exotic cousin, Eliza, to whom she dedicated one of her early works; and, always, her devoted sister Cassandra.  Cassandra was executor of Austen’s estate and responsible for burning most of her sister’s letters—presumably at Jane’s request.  It’s easy to feel outrage at this destruction, but consider that the author herself refused to attach her name to her novels, her “darling” children, because she did not wish to lose her privacy.  It’s impossible to stay angry with the sister who so touchingly described her loss on the occasion of Austen’s death,“She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself.”
Tomalin’s meticulous research and deep understanding of Jane Austen’s work and life make this an informative and fascinating read.  Highly recommended for all Austen fans.
--Chelsea