Book review: a list for the kids

By , December 30, 2012

The kids are home for another week, the gifts that looked so tempting just days ago have lost some of their luster, the wallet is empty and the weather dictates indoor activities. Welcome to the season of The Bored and the Broke.  Luckily, the public library shines in times like this.

To your rescue, we offer this end of the year list. Hopefully you will find something for everyone trapped inside for the foreseeable future. Venture out to your favorite branch library and let the gathering begin.

Picture Books

Bear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus

Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas

Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith

House held up by trees : not far from here… by  Ted Kooser

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black


Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett

Chapter Books

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Amar’e Stoudemire basketball series titles, Home Court and the STAT titles (Standing tall and talented)

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

See you at Harry’s by Jo Knowles


Where things come back by John Corey Whaley

The Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

Purity by Jackson Pearce

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Humming Room by Ellen Porter

Perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, (DVD currently on order for the library)

Many thanks to our selection librarians in Limitless Libraries and the Main Children’s department for their suggestions.

And remember, “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”


Book review: Lemony Snicket

By , December 29, 2012

Who Could That Be at This Hour?
By Lemony Snicket

Why do I keep reading books by such a curmudgeonly author? (Here curmudgeonly means someone who thinks no one should read his books.) How come Lemony Snicket made himself the lead character in his new series? Why could I not put this book down? Who wouldn’t want to read it?

For those of you out there who loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, Snicket is back with a new children’s series called All the Wrong Questions. This is the first book in which we find Snicket setting off on a new quest that almost immediately seems more dangerous and daunting than one would initially expect.

Snicket still has the same witty writing style that has become his signature and he takes self-deprecation to a whole new level. Unfortunately, this book asks more questions than it answers…which may be the author’s completely brilliant (and evil) plan. I can’t wait to see what twists Snicket creates next. These books might be officially for kids, but any kid-at-heart will enjoy them.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda

PS If you only watched the movie of A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jim Carrey and were not satisfied, definitely give the books a try. They are SO much better.

Book review: The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online

By , December 27, 2012

Request it

The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online
By Kari Chapin


The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online provides simple, straightforward good advice about how to get your craft business started and is perfect for the novice business person. Kari Chapin discusses everything from branding and marketing your business to the nuts and bolts about how to sell at craft fairs, online stores, co-ops and brick and mortar stores. The book features stories and words of wisdom from successful crafters. Also included is a thorough list of online resources to help you get started. The book’s compact size makes the information seem approachable and attainable.

- Karen

Need Holiday Music ASAP?

By , December 25, 2012

Yikes!  You’ve been decorating, prepping, and cooking  for days, and forgot to pull together music for your party!  Not to worry, you can download these five tunes in a flash from freegal.

1) Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You has become one of the most beloved Christmas songs.   She recently visited Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and performed with Jimmy and The Roots. (search Artist Mariah Carey/Album Merry Christmas.)

2)  Oh Barbra…When you sing What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve you melt the hardest of hearts. (search Artist Barbra Streisand/Album Christmas Memories.)

3)  You can’t help but dance around when  Woody Guthrie sings Hannukah Dance. (search Artist Woody Guthrie/Album Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: the Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.)

4)  Sarah McLachlan‘s vocal never disappoints.  Her rendition of Christmas Time Is Here is a lovely addition to the many recordings of this classic tune. (search Artist Sarah McLachlan/Album Wintersong.)

5)  I remember my mom spinning The Andy Williams Christmas Album on the old turntable and I was SO excited to find it on freegal. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year should definitely make your playlist. (search Artist Andy Williams/Album The Andy Williams Christmas Album.)

May your holidays be merry and bright, indeed…And may 2013 be kind to one and all!


DVD review: Mildred Pierce

By , December 20, 2012

Request it

Mildred Pierce
is the story of a woman who finds herself a single mother in 1930’s California. Using her wits to survive she becomes a successful business woman.  Mildred’s ultimate downfall revolves around her complicated relationship with her daughter Veda.

Based on the novel by James M. Cain, this 2011 HBO five part mini-series differs from the 1945 Joan Crawford movie version “staying more faithful to the book’s original story.”

Kate Winslet stars as Mildred Pierce and Evan Rachel Wood as Veda. Winslet won an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Pierce.



Book review: Gone to the dogs

By , December 16, 2012

There are cat people and there are dog people.

Cat people feel the need to share cat cartoons, cat videos and hairballs.

Dog people tolerate cat people, secure in the knowledge that our loyal canine companions will never attack our bare feet with razor sharp claws from underneath low lying furniture. Dog people know that we would rather share a walk with our loyal pet than with just about anyone. Dog people go to dog parks. Cat people…

If you are a dog lover, here are three books that celebrate the canine species.

What’s a dog for? : the surprising history, science, philosophy, and politics of man’s best friend, by John Homans . Canine culture and the evolution of the dog/human relationship are just a few of the topics expertly discussed in this soon to be dog-eared book.

Do dogs dream? : nearly everything your dog wants you to know, by Stanley Coren (professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia) answers 75+ questions about dogs ranging from the social and emotional to how they perceive us. Illustrated and easy to read, enjoy this one with a yellow or chocolate lab at your feet.

Finally one to tug at the heartstrings, Following Atticus : forty-eight high peaks, one little dog, and an extraordinary friendship ,by Tom Ryan. The author,a former newspaper man from Newburyport, Mass  writes of the path that led him to the challenge faced hiking all 48 of the White Mountain range’s 4,000-foot peaks in 90 days with Atticus leading the way.  The author reports that Atticus, a frisky miniature schnauzer was “made for the mountains” and those cute little Muttluks on his paws were made for him.

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx


Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

By , December 15, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
By Katherine Boo

This book has been kind of haunting me. I read about it a couple months ago when it came out, but every time it came up on the hold list for me, I just sent it on to the next reader. I think I was afraid it would be dry and boring or simply too depressing to enjoy. I happy to report, though, that this book is neither of those things.

Katherine Boo tells such a powerful story here that it is hard to remember that these are real people living real lives. It seemed more like a novelization of a stereotypical slum. You really get pulled in by the characters – and the fact that Abdul and Manju really exist makes it even more poignant.

Parts of it were incredibly frustrating – not because of the reading, because of the situation. The amount of corruption at the lower levels of this society is amazing. Medicine isn’t even available in the hospitals. Slumdwellers must first purchase it on the street and then take it into the hospital (!?!?!). This book takes Slumdog Millionaire to the next level. Even with all our troubles, I have never been more thankful to live where I do and have the opportunities I have.

If you’re looking for something gripping that will really make you think, this one will do it easily. The National Book Award folks thought so too, because they just gave it their prize for Nonfiction.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda


Book review: Splendors and Glooms

By , December 13, 2012

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz

Set in Victorian England, this fantasy novel by Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  Voices from a medieval village) is recommended for grades 4-8, but is definitely on the darker side. Thirteen year old Lizzie Rose and eleven-ish Parsefall are two orphans “adopted” by Grisini, a sinister master puppeteer.  As in marionettes. A children’s book about an eeeeevil puppeteer?!  Yes, please!

Grisini and the orphans perform at a young rich girl’s birthday party and when the girl, Clara, winds up missing the next day, the trio is suspected of being behind her disappearance.  When Grisini also vanishes, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are left to defend and fend for themselves; while also wishing to help find Clara.  I thought the plot would be pretty straightforward, and in some respects it is.  The orphans are plucky (of course) and good at heart.  Grisini is evil to a Dickensian level and the rich girl who has everything is really quite lonely and sad.  But then there is this whole other plot about a witch and her magic stone (which is actually a curse that is burning her alive.)  Schlitz manages to merge the characters’ plots fairly seamlessly by telling the story from the alternating points of view of the witch and all three children.

I wasn’t prepared for this deftly written book’s rich bleakness.  There were times that I didn’t want to get out of the car to stop listening to the audiobook (which is very well narrated) and times that I was almost uncomfortable in its gloominess.  Schlitz does not shy away from the grittier details of Victorian London so oft forgotten in period pieces.  She also draws unflinchingly evil characters and manages to create sympathy for them at times – a rather complex idea for a children’s fantasy book.

Of course, I had to read this book – it’s about an evil puppeteer.  But I was surprised by how strong my reaction to it was.  I highly recommend this book for less sensitive children.  The issues of wickedness, punishment, neglect, abuse and especially death are not skirted around and if the reader is mature enough to handle those concepts, they will be rewarded with a thoughtful, rich, engrossing story.


Graphic novel pick: Drawn Together and other Crumby stuff

By , December 10, 2012

Drawn Together by Aline and Robert CrumbDrawn Together
by Aline Kominsky-Crumb & R. Crumb

Drawn Together is the collected collaborative work of underground comics superstar team Aline and Robert Crumb. Married for over thirty-five years, they have shared their personal relationship through uncensored autobiographical comics. Covering 1974 to 2010, it charts their critical and financial rise from (literally) a trailer in California to a chateau in France. Individual vignettes are hit or miss, but overall we are given a portrait of a successful, long term, non-traditional relationship. They have an open marriage. The entire volume is evidence that the strongest couples are those in which the constituent personalities are complementary, as opposed to clones, of one another.

Need More Love by Aline Kominsky-CrumbWhat’s lacking is the narrative arc of Aline’s underrated mixed media biography Need More Love.  That book is a life affirming exploration of being damaged and the journey we are all on to fix it. It is an antidote to the negative portrayal of Aline found in Terry Zwigoff’s biopic of her neurotic husband, simply titled Crumb. If Need More Love is about the ability of people to change, Crumb is about one artist’s psychodynamics trapping their owner in an obsessional loop. Its vision may not be hopeful, but is it shockingly honest and simultaneously enlightening like turning a light on in a darkened room. The room being Robert Crumb’s bizarre childhood.


Crumb DVDThough Crumb ranks as of the best films of the 1990s, Robert’s actual comics have never spoken much to me. I don’t possess his self-loathing nor his sexual obsessions. In this regard, Robert’s influence on other comics auteurs has been negative. Artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Chester Brown share his technical excellence but also his misanthropy and confessional self-indulgence. The library owns numerous examples of Crumb’s work in this, for him, classic mode, but if you wanted an alternative you could check out his illustrated version of The Book of Genesis. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than Robert Crumb illustrating the Bible but it was a bonafide event when it was published a few years back.

I would be remiss not to mention the Crumbs’ daughter Sophie’s recently published notebooks Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist. The aesthetic relevance vs. cash cow status of that particular artifact is up to the reader. I would call out the haters who say the same thing about Need More Love. My opinions deserve the same scrutiny.

CrumbNeed More Love, and Drawn Together intimately document one couple’s decades long artistic and romantic life. It’s one for the history books. I feel privileged to have been witness. It has filled me with fascination and joy.

- Bryan

Book review: Where’d you go, Bernadette

By , December 9, 2012

Where’d you go, Bernadette?
By Maria Semple

It is difficult to find engaging contemporary fiction featuring modern characters that do not lean towards twee-dom. In Where’d you go, Bernadette, Maria Semple has crafted an epistolary work told in a crisp, contemporary manner.

Bernadette’s story is engaging and interesting without being coy or contrived. Plot twists are memorable, yet  believable. Character outlines are recognizable but the author fills them in with quirks, personal failures and redemptions that are rich and ring true.

The story is set in Seattle, home of Microsoft which serves as a sort of mother church. The town is chocked full of Craftsman homes and on their porches Patagonia clad owners sip coffee. The owners either sport short grey hair or alternatively, long grey hair. Bernadette is weary with the monotony of the “gnats” that populate her daughter’s school pick-up lane. The “gnats” see Bernadette as anti-social, superior and too far removed to consider anything but a non-participatory parent.

What the “gnats” don’t know about Bernadette’s past explains in large part her weariness.  Suffice it to say that Bernadette finds genius difficult to maintain over the years.

A perfect companion book is House by Diane Keaton. The author has gathered glossy visions of the best of modern architecture, crisp and contemporary.

“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”  Frank Lloyd Wright


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