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?


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. 


October 13, 2015 

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! 


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.


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.


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