Book Review: My Dear Governess and The Age of Desire

By , September 28, 2012

For you fans of Edith Wharton, there have been two great books recently released that explore her relationship with her governess Anna Bahlmann. Both of these authors recently gave a talk at the library on their experiences, and some of Anna Bahlmann’s family was able to attend. In case you missed them, though, here is a review of their works.

My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann

By Irene Goldman-Price

This book contains a selection of letters from Edith Wharton to her governess, secretary, and lifelong companion. Goldman-Price includes thoughtful introductions to each section, in order to help the reader understand the progression of Edith’s life and her relationship with Anna. Interestingly enough, Anna’s letters were not kept by any of her famous correspondent, so we only have Edith’s communications. The letters cross forty-two years, showing a young, precocious woman as she became a person whose literature is unforgettable. Wharton’s extensive travels, her interest in poetry, German translations, and writing become apparent, as well as Bahlmann’s influence on her. This book reveals much information about Edith Wharton’s life, even some that contradicts her biography. It was an interesting and in-depth look at the woman behind the writing.

The Age of Desire

By Jennie Fields

The Age of Desire is a work of historical fiction, which explores not only the relationship between Edith Wharton and Anna Bahlmann, but Anna’s friendship with Edith’s husband Teddy. The novel also delves into the torrid love affair between Edith Wharton and the journalist Morton Fullerton.  The story is told from Anna’s and Edith’s perspective, and the differences in class and upbringing are brought to life. Edith seems a tragic figure – a woman who is strong, but whose life is burdened by a husband who she neither loves nor understands. Anna’s affection for both Edith and Teddy are apparent, but her attraction to Teddy and her disapproval of Edith’s behavior causes strain in their relationship. This book was also an interesting take on the life of this literary giant, and brought to life some of the places, times, and people described in Edith’s letters to Anna.


Pleasant reading -


Book review: Doggy Fashion

By , September 27, 2012

Doggy Fashion

By Alison Jenkins


Looking for an excuse to dress your dog up for Halloween this year,

 then look no further…..


Doggy Fashion by Alison Jenkins provides a dozen costume ideas and step by step sewing instructions to help you turn Fido into a dinosaur, a spaceman, a vampire, a clown or even Elvis complete with white studded jumpsuit.

The patterns can be scaled up to fit any size dog. Basic sewing knowledge is needed as the patterns range from easy to advanced.


Your dog will love you for it!


- Karen



Export: What is it?!

By , September 24, 2012

Patrons often ask me what the “Export” button in the library catalog does.  If you are confused, this post is for you!

Export adds an item to your cart, “My Book Cart” in the upper right hand corner of the screen, just like adding a book to your cart on Amazon. Put as many items as you need in your cart. Once you have them in your cart you can do three things with them:

Request - This places all the items in your cart on hold for you to be delivered to the branch of your choice. Like Amazon, except you enter your library card number, not your credit card number. OMG, the library is awesome.

Save to list - This saves items to lists that you can manage when signed in to your account. You can save items to lists you have already created or create new ones. Some examples of lists you could create: “Books I Want to Read” or “mysteries series I like” or “Books for Tommy’s Project” or “Books Recommended by that Handsome Librarian with the Nerdy Glasses” or, well, you get the picture.

Email – This will email a list of the items in your cart to a specified an email address. This is useful if you need to print the list out or share it with other people. This is especially handy if you need to keep track of bibliographies for school projects. You can also print your list and hand it to a handsome library staff member with nerdy glasses and say, “Can you help me find these?” which they will proceed to do with aplomb.

Why is it called “Export” and not “Add to Cart” or “Add to List” or “Anything Less Confusing Than Export”? I’m not sure. They didn’t teach us that at Hogwarts School for Bookscraft and Libraridy, but they did teach us how to use it so hopefully this post helped a little.

Among Others by Jo WaltonNow to test our magic we could:

1) Check out a copy of Jo Walton‘s Hugo and Nebula Award winning Among Others. It tells the story of Morwenna Phelps, who can talk to fairies but is forced to go to a horrible school after her twin sister is killed in an accident. Set in Wales during the 1970s, Morwenna survives by immersing herself in the vibrant science fiction and fantasy of the time. Like many of the arts, SF was an algae bloom of creativity during the 1970s.  Among Others is a love letter/curatorial bibliography of the most mind-altering 70s SF wonderfulness.

2) Create a list using Export called “All the Gnarly Novels Mentioned in Among Others.” Now put the whole list on hold all at once and start reading fast! Titles that the library does not own you could interlibrary loan, the glories of which Among Others also chronicles.

- Bryan

Movie review: Bernie

By , September 23, 2012

Bernie movie posterJack Black’s performance in Bernie is bound to garner buzz come award season. Now that’s a sentence you never thought you would read.

This Richard Linklater directed film tells the story of the relationship between a 39 year old assistant mortician, played by Black, and a 81 year old millionaire widow, played by Shirley MacLaine. This is no Harold and Maude “let’s ponder the innocence of pure May-December love” story. The aforementioned mortician ends up murdering the millionaire. Did I mention that this is a true story?

The story of Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugen of Carthage, Texas is told in this little black comedy – and Mr. Jack Black shines. His nuanced, reeled in performance is a thing of tightly held beauty. The movie star slash Tenacious D rock star dropped his usual shtick at the Carthage city limits. Not since Black’s performance in 2007′s Margot at the Wedding has he turned down the volume enough to allow us all to enjoy the show. Maybe marriage to one of Charlie Haden’s triplet daughters has mellowed him.

While Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of district attorney Danny Buck  may not be his most memorable of the year (see Killer Joe), it is one of the best of his career. Shirley MacLaine is spot on as expected.

Add Bernie to your must see list. You will want to get a good, open casket, friends and family viewing.

- Laurie

Music Review: Quintron

By , September 21, 2012

Quintron - These Hands of MineThere are five or so weeks left until Halloween, which gives you more than enough time to utilize your five weekly Freegal downloads to acquire These Hands of Mine and Are You Ready for an Organ Solo? by Quintron. That is, if you want your home to have the weirdest, eeriest, most chaotic atmosphere possible. Your trick-or-treaters and party guests will be beguiled, spooked, possibly annoyed, but you will be remembered.

Quintron and his wife Miss Pussycat are the sort of happy couple that perhaps only makes sense in the context of New Orleans. They exist in that less jazzy part of New Orleans that is a land of cultural crosspollination and must be described in a series of hyphens and coated in a fine sheen of off-ness. Quintron is the lovechild of Jerry Lee Lewis and Vincent Price, left neglected in a closet with only a Hammond organ and Pentecostal radio sermons. Miss Pussycat is a puppeteer and a cheerleader in the most broken and strange way.   They are characters from a movie that John Waters forgot to make sometime between Female Trouble and Desperate Living. They don’t, however, come across as contrived or weird for the sake of weird. For my money, at least, they appear to be the genuine article, which makes them all the more frightening and exhilarating.

The primary instruments on the albums are the aforementioned Hammond organ and the Drum Buddy, an invention of Quintron’s damaged mind. It is something between a drum machine and a Theremin, constructed out of a coffee can, a light bulb, and a turntable. It makes sounds using light, and it has to be seen to be believed (there is a longer and much more bizarre video on YouTube if you want to search for it). It all comes together in a loose package of funk-rockabilly-gospel-punk rock-R & B-electro something or other. This is “experimental music” where the mad scientist running the experiment is Dr. Moreau meets Voodoo priest. At its most accessible, it might be easiest to think of as punk rock and at times it even hints at a sick, toxic B-52s.

I will say, this is probably not music you’re going to set around and listen to casually, or at least most people aren’t. Are You Ready for an Organ Solo? is a bit more straightforward, but that’s speaking contextually, of course, but you might actually find yourself dancing. If you still find this all too straight laced for your taste, check out The Frog Tapes, also available on Freegal, which was conceived as Halloween atmosphere music, making it extra creepy compared to the already creepy stuff Quintron normally has going on. Think Phantom of the Opera meets field recordings of frogs (the last track is just 14 minutes of frog sounds) and throaty grunts.

These albums are all available from the library through Freegal.


“Underwater Dance Club” sample from Are You Ready for an Organ Solo?

“Place Unknown” sample from Are You Ready for an Organ Solo?

“Dungeon Master” sample from These Hands of Mine

“Meet Me at the Clubhouse” sample from These Hands of Mine

“Horror” sample from The Frog Tape

Book review: Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In

By , September 20, 2012

Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In

By Joan Tapper

 Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In  by Joan Tapper is filled with great stories about people that love to create and are making a difference with their creations.

You’ll learn about Jenny Hart who is taking embroidery to the next level with her hip retro designs, Bee Shay’s artist trading cards and the Orphan Foundation of America’s The Red Scarf Project that sends out over 2,500 hand knit red scarves each February to college students coming out of the foster system.


Craft Activism will introduce you to new ideas, get you excited, and make you want to try something new. 





Book Review: When It Happens to You

By , September 14, 2012

When It Happens to You

by Molly Ringwald

For those of you who grew up in the 1980s, you probably remember Molly Ringwald as the quirky actress in coming-of-age teen movies, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Though she has an extensive acting career, Molly Ringwald is also an accomplished writer. Her articles appear in Esquire and The New York Times, as well as a non-fiction book titled Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick.

When It Happens to You: A Novel in Short Stories, is Molly Ringwald’s fiction debut. The stories revolve around a central cast of characters. Greta is a woman who has given up her own dreams in order to raise a family. She struggles with fertility issues and, as the novel opens, the betrayal of her husband against everything she has held dear. Greta’s husband Phillip is successful and handsome. He tries to be attentive to his family’s needs. However, he finds himself turning away from family life, seeking something outside marriage. Charlotte is their six-year-old daughter. At times, she can be a trying child, especially when her parents separate, after Phillip’s revelations to his wife.

The stories in the novel are connected through these three characters, even if the story may seem unrelated to the novel as a whole. Ringwald addresses a series of issues regarding family, infidelity, infertility, and identity through the diverse cast of characters whose lives rotate around the central family like the earth around the sun.

Out of all the stories in this novel, my favorite is called “My Olivia”. The story is about Charlotte’s playmate, Oliver, and is told through his mother’s perspective. Without giving too much away, the story explores gender identity issues in small children and how one mother learns to come to terms with her young son’s confident insistence that he is a girl.

When It Happens to You is a study of the realism of life. The characters are human beings with faults, who make mistakes, and who struggle for redemption and understanding.

Molly Ringwald will be kick-starting this season’s Salon@615 series, on September 18th at the Main library downtown. Check the calendar for details!

Pleasant Reading -



Book review: Three Times Lucky

By , September 13, 2012

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage

This book for ages 10 and up was brought to my attention by my boss with the claim that she thought it was a Newbery contender (again, we are rarely able to predict or agree with past winners.)  However, her claim wasn’t too far-fetched as this book is reminiscent of recent Newberry winners.

Like 2012’s Dead End in Norvelt (Gantos, 2011) this book features a small town full of eccentric characters and a murder mystery.  Like 2007’s Higher Power of Lucky (Patron, 2006) this book’s main character, Mo, is a “plucky orphan.” There is a whole genre of “plucky orphan” literature.  First thing you learn in Children’s Literature class is that most children’s authors get rid of the parents. It looks like an amended genre is emerging: “plucky orphan with loving adopted parent(s)”.  This is the case with the heroines in both Three Times Lucky and Higher Power of Lucky.

In Three Times Lucky, Moses “Mo” LoBeau’s parents, The Colonel and Miss Lana, find it easier to live together separately (think Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton) in their small, present-day, North Carolina town. While it is clear they love each other and Mo a great deal, Mo still sends letters-in-a-bottle to her biological “Upstream Mother.” Mo has a comfortable and interesting life; however, her life becomes a lot more interesting when the town’s resident grump turns up dead and she and her best pal decide they will get to the bottom of it.

Three Times Lucky is a witty, quirky book that is fun to read without the mystery, but those who need the mystery will appreciate it as well. This is Turnage’s first fiction book for children and she clearly has a gift for colorful colloquialisms, intriguing characters, and teasing a mystery along at a perfect pace for children. While, I’m still pulling for R.J. Palacio’s Wonder to take top Newbery prize, I admit that when I had to wrap up my lunch break with 20 pages to spare, I did finish this book while sitting at the Children’s Reference Desk, something I only do in emergency situations.

Book review: Minxy Vintage: how to customise and wear vintage clothing

By , September 9, 2012

Minxy VintageMinxy Vintage: how to customise and wear vintage clothing
by Kelly Doust

There comes a time in every woman’s life when waistlines are tiny, budgets are minimal, and vintage clothing is plentiful. You serendipidously have stumbled upon a box of dresses under a table of odd ceramics at a yard sale or you may have a friend of a friend who is looking for a home for her once daily wardrobe of vintage dresses. The women who previously wore these pieces are smiling upon you. Don’t hide these finds in the closet, they are meant to be worn.

Here is the book to help you along. From the restorative powers of white  vinegar and baking soda to the wonders of a new hem, the author has not missed a stitch in the advice column (dress). The book covers the big basics of vintage optimization: Restoration, Alteration, Embellishment, Customization and Accessorizing. The author gives all the keys to create a look that is flattering, updated, and all yours.

Visually the book is a joy. Beautifully laid out double page spreads find text and illustration in harmony. Details of handiwork are clearly noted. Basics of revisions are clearly explained. One page overviews of period peices are given at the close of each of eight chapters. The cover is texured to give the feel of broadcloth.

Enjoy and remember, it is your stylistic duty to proudly pin that brooch on that re-worked Liberty print frock, go forth proudly and know you stand uniquely among the sea of sameness.

- Laurie

Book List: Newish Picture Books for Children

By , September 6, 2012

I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen

This one is not-so-new (hence, the “newish”) but is my current favorite picture book and therefore gets a mention. A cumulative tale about a bear whose hat is gone and he – wait for it – wants it back. A simple narrative told dryly sounds like a recipe for a horrible children’s picture book, but Klassen’s understated, yet expressive illustrations bring it to life and make children feel like they are in on the joke.  If this story doesn’t make you laugh out loud, I’ll give you your money back.


My No, No, No, Day!
by Rebecca Patterson

Similar to Viorst’s timeless classic, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, this tale follows young Bella through a day that starts off bad and just gets worse.  Though, as a parent of an almost-three-year-old, I would argue that Bella’s mother’s day is much worse.  As opposed to Viorst’s Alexander…, this book wraps up more optimistically than the promise of moving to Australia and might provide parents and caregivers a window to discuss emotions and bad days – not that we ever have bad days…


by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

A boy and robot (Bot) become fast friends until Bot’s power switch is accidentally turned off.  Boy does everything that he knows to fix sick things, including feeding Bot applesauce.  When the tables are turned, Bot must try all of his scientific repairs to fix the boy who is sick (sleeping.)  Children enjoy the attempts Boy and Bot make to fix each other and appreciate the book even more if you read it in your best robot-voice.



by Jef Czekaj; 2012

This tongue-twister of a book is a quick, fun read-aloud.  A barnyard game of “telephone” gets more and more complicated as more animal noises are added to the mix.



by Sally Sutton

This book is a must-read for those little ones in your life who are obsessed with all things construction.  Told in rhyme with bright, bold words and illustrations, children enjoy the wonderful onomatopoetic words and love to see some of their favorite construction vehicles in action.  Warning: if you check this book out you will be asked to read it again and again and again.  I might have it memorized after having it checked out for three weeks at home. Bonus read: for a slightly longer book in a similar vein check out Bang! Boom! Roar!: a busy crew of dinosaurs by Nate Evans and Stephanie Gwyn Brown, illustrated by Christopher Santoro – it’s dinosaurs + construction!


Big Mean Mike
by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Mike is a big, mean, dog with a big, mean, car.  When some fluffy bunnies show up in his car, he does what any big, mean, dog would do – he gives them the what-for (in children’s book-ese, of course.) Unfortunately, the bunnies do what bunnies will do – be adorable (what were you thinking?) Can Big Mean Mike resist the adorableness of the bunnies? What will the bunnies do to his reputation?  This somewhat longer picture book is a hit with the 3-5 year olds and I happen to know it’s one of Library Pete’s new favorites.


- Lindsey

Off the Shelf is powered by WordPress. Panorama Theme by Themocracy