Our blog about books, authors and reading

Train Dreams

ISBN: 
9780374281144

I don't read many novellas but this one, Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson made several "best new book" lists recently.  And it got rave reviews from quite a few other writers.

Grainier's first memory of trains is of being sent on one as a young child, with a fare receipt pinned to his shirt.  His destination was Fry, Idaho, but he never knew his parents or even the origin point of this trip. One older cousin said that he came from Canada and that the French language had to be whipped out of him. Another cousin said that family had sent him from Utah where he had spent his first years as a Mormon. But all his life, he had only trains and their tracks for the history of his early childhood. Read more »

How It All Began

ISBN: 
9780670023448

I only brought one novel on my vacation to New Mexico, and How It All Began was the perfect one. Not that it's about New Mexico, no--it's almost wholly set in London with a few side trips to Cambridge and a "cathedral town."

The novel begins with an interesting premise, similar to the butterfly affect in New Zealand. What happens in the rest of the world when a butterfly starts a slight breeze wafting Down Under? In this case, it's nothing as natural or beautiful as a butterfly fluttering.  Instead, an older retired teacher and passionate book person, Charlotte, has been mugged on a city street. This ignites a chain of events that alters many lives.

First, her daughter Rose must come to the hospital and care for her. This leaves Rose's grumpy, egotistical employer, Henry, a former professor of history, at a loss. Rose had promised to accompany him to Cambridge where he was presenting a lecture on his field, 18th century England. Read more »

Lambda Awards and LGBT YA Fiction

FatBoyJune is generally recognized as LGBT Pride Month.  In honor of this, the Lambda Awards were announced last week for excellence in LGBT literature.  A long list of winners in a wide variety of categories can be found on their website.

The winner in the LGBT Children's/Young Adult category is Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright.  This novel is about high school student Carlos Duarte who is juggling a job at the Macy's makeup counter, a jealous boss, his sister's abusive boyfriend, and a difficult crush.  Booklist's review of Wright's novel remarks that "there's a whole lot going on in Wright's novel, but it's handled deftly and, for the most part, believably. Best of all, Carlos is not completely defined by his homosexuality. It is an important part of him, yes, but so are his ambition, his concern for his sister, and his capacity for friendship."

Read more »

The Transit of Venus--Books

ISBN: 
9780307700179

Tonight if you are lucky and the sky doesn't cloud up, you will be able to observe one of astronomy's rare celestial events, the transit of Venus. But be careful, and don't look directly at the sun without using safe viewing glasses or lenses. If you don't own those, you can attend one of the free events listed below. If you miss tonight's transit, alas, you won't catch another in your lifetime because the next one won't occur until 2117.

I've been reading about the transit of Venus and how an earlier one in the 18th century really expanded our knowledge of the solar system. It also was the earliest example of a large and cooperative international scientific expedition.

We have two new books that report on this scientific quest. Andrea Wulf's Chasing Venus: the Race to Measure the Heavens reports on the work and incredible adventures that were undertaken by scientists worldwide in trying to observe and make measurements for the transit that occurred on June 6, 1761. In an age when it took several months for a letter to cross the oceans and a few more months for a response, a scientist in England organized this great scientific undertaking. In remote corners of the world, scientists from Britain, Russia, India, Germany, the Read more »

Summer Reading - Not Just for Kids!

Don't forget - Summer Reading isn't just for kids!  Though MCPL has a very popular and excellent reading program for kids from birth to 12, we have opportunities for teens and adults as well.

DreamItTeens ages 13-20 are able to participate in our Dream It - Do It Summer Reading Program.  Teens can earn points by a combination of books read, programs attended, computer questions answered and/or book reviews written.  Ten points earn the choice of a paperback book starting July 1.  All entries will be saved for a grand prize drawing for one of two Kindle eBook readers later in August. Pick up a Teen Summer Reading Program Game Board at the Main Library, Ellettsville, or Bookmobile Information desks to learn more and get started!

Adults are also encouraged to participate in the Adult Summer Reading Program.  There are 6 reading ideas for inspiration and winners will be selected weekly.  Enter at the Main Library, Ellettsville Branch, Bookmobile and/or  online. Read more »

Miss Fuller

ISBN: 
9781586421953

"I am absurdly fearful and various omens have combined to give me a dark feeling ... It seems to me that my future upon earth will soon close ... I have a vague expectation of some crisis--I know not what." Shortly before returning to America from Europe, the famous 19th century feminist Margaret Fuller wrote these words.

This small elegantly designed historical novel is a pleasure to read.  Besides the famous activist Fuller, it presents portraits of other famous 19th century literary heroes including Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. But these are basically side characters; it's really about Margaret Fuller, the activist, writer, and revolutionary who changed the world's thinking about women.

It's divided into two sections. The first tells the story of Fuller's shipwreck off Fire Island, New York. This section is told primarily through the viewpoint of Annie Thoreau, the famous naturalist's younger sister and helpmate. What makes Annie's viewpoint interesting is that at the beginning she does not like Margaret.  Like many in the politically active town of Concord, Annie felt that by concentrating on the problems of women, Fuller was stealing fire from the anti-slave movement. Read more »

Wild & Other Hiking Related Books

wildThe Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,663 mile long trail reaching from the Canadian border in northern border in Washington, through Oregon, to the Mexico border in southern California.  Hiking this trail can take 4-6 months and it purposefully avoids civilization.  The Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains make for both difficult hiking and beautiful unspoiled scenery.

After a trying few years after the death of her mother, author Cheryl Strayed started her PCT trail hike despite her outdoor inexperience.  Her book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail chronicling her hike came out this past spring and was well reviewed. I promptly put this book on my to-read list as doing a long hike lingers at the bottom of my life to-do list.  

Looks like I will have to wait to read this memoir a little bit longer as this past week Oprah selected Wild as the first title of her new Oprah Book Club 2.0.  As of this morning there were quite a few holds on this book, but I'm thinking the wait just might be worth it. Read more »

Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

NorthernLightGrace Brown, a 20 year old skirt factory employee, was murdered in 1906 just outside an Adirondack mountain resort by Chester Gillette.  Gillette was arrested soon after Grace's body was recovered in a lake and he was later executed in a New York prison. 

This gruesome true story serves as part of the backdrop for the very non-gruesome and excellent young adult novel, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.  The main character, Mattie Gokey, receives a bundle of letters from a guest at the resort and makes a promise to burn them.  But when Grace's body is later pulled out of the lake, Mattie becomes unsure what the right thing to do.  Maybe the letters hold answers? 

Mattie is also torn between her duty to her family and her dream of going to college.  Her family lives in a rural area and they work extra hard making a living off of the land, made especially difficult since her mother has passed away and there are three younger girls to look after. 

Read more »

Books Plus for June

calebscrossingIn Caleb's Crossing, Pulitzer-Prize winner Geraldine Brooks returns to the seventeenth century setting she captured so well in Year of Wonders, but this time around she's chosen the New World for her location. The novel tells the story of a deep friendship between a young Pilgrim servant girl, Bethia, and a member of the local Native American tribe, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauck, who later became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.

Before becoming a novelist, Brooks was an investigative reporter who covered the international beat. She brings her investigative and research skills to this novel, and a sense of narrative developed by writing many pieces of journalism and several nonfiction books.

Please join us this Sunday as we discuss this novel with its historical American themes. Here's what the New York Times said about it: "Caleb's Crossing could not be more enlightening and involving. Beautifully written from beginning to end, it reconfirms Geraldine Brooks' reputation as one of our most supple and insightful ­novelists."

Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.

No registration necessary. Drop in.

2 p.m., First Sundays

See the full summer schedule below. Read more »

Pop by Gordon Korman

Pop book jacketA book about football in the summer? Sure! Pro teams are already running organized team activities, and high schools & colleges will be training hard while most of us are sipping lemonade. Gordon Korman's Pop is the perfect summer football book. Marcus is the new kid in upstate New York's Kennesaw, a former star quarterback at this old Kansas high school. Read more »

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