Sarah B.'s blog

Rosie Nominations and Historical YA Fiction

Between Shades of GrayQuick! Name one thing you know about the Crimean War! Nothing? Florence Nightingale maybe?

Brief history lesson: The Crimean War was fought between Russia and an alliance of France and England over the declining Ottoman Empire in what is now part of the Ukraine.  This war pre-dates World War I, and is often considered as the first modern war. It is also famous for Florence Nightingale who drastically improved nursing practices while caring for wounded British soldiers.

Sounds exciting, right?  Ok, maybe not the most promising backdrop for a YA book, but In the Shadow of the Lamp has enough to keep you turning pages. Molly has been framed for theft and fired from her job as a parlor maid at a fancy London home. She decides to sneak her way onto a ship headed east when she hears that Miss Nightingale is looking for nurses. Even though she doesn’t have any training, Molly is headstrong and is willing to work hard. She is found out by Miss Nightingale, but her hard work and natural inclinations at nursing and caring for people proves her worthy. In fact, Molly's abilities are even a bit magical. The magical elements aren't played up too much and Molly is a likeable character as she struggles with defining her future, both professionally and personally. Whether during the Crimean War or now, trying to figure your way in the world is a timeless endeavor. Read more »

Books Plus June

WildJoin us on Sunday at Books Plus to discuss Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed at 2:00 p.m.

This memoir/adventure book recalls Cheryl's odyssey on the longest and most difficult of North America's long-distance hiking trails. With no experience and little planning, she encounters immense heat, rattlers, bears, cliffs, and raging snowstorms. But her journey is internal as well as external. Shortly before leaving her mother died and her marriage broke apart. This book describes what she learned about hiking, nature, and particularly herself during this journey.

More information about upcoming Books Plus discussions below. Read more »

Garbage! Water! Or Why I Love Non-fiction

GarbologyI read a lot of narrative non-fiction - historical, microhistory, natural sciences, travel, and environmental. I read these to be better informed, but also for pleasure so my ultimate test for a narrative non-fiction book is whether it would have made a better magazine article. I hate finishing something that I think was interesting, but could have been boiled down into a 20 page magazine article with the same impact. I've recently read two non-fiction books passed the magazine article test and then some. 

The Big Thirst: The Marvels, Mysteries & Madness Shaping the New Era of Water by Charles Fishman isn't about how to make changes in your lifestyle with regards to water conservation. It isn't a how-to book for urban or rural planners. It is a book that will challenge what you think you know about water from the big picture including where it comes from and what do we really mean by "clean". This book will also identify our emotional connection with water and will put those assumptions to the test. Near the end of the book, an economist presents a model for future water use that makes sense for both dry places like Las Vegas and Australia should also be considered for wetter places like Atlanta and even Bloomington. There are pages and pages of research, calculations and notes at the end, but the book was captivating, accessible and provides much food for thought. Read more »

2013 Edgar Awards

Live by NightThe Edgar Awards were announced last week and because I am not normally a mystery reader, I usually only give a cursory glance at the winners. But this year, not only are there several winners and nominees that are pretty high on my to-read list, but I've even read one of the winners. 

The Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar Award to the best mystery books every year in a few different categories. This year there looks like many good choices. Who knows, maybe I'll be a mystery reader yet! Check out the entire list of winners and nominees at the Edgar Award website.

Best Novel: Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Best First Novel: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Best Paperback Original: The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters

Best Fact Crime: Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French

Best Juvenile: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Best Young Adult: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Shine by Lauren Myracle

ShineWarning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.

After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.

But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process.  I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing.  Read more »

Anna and the French Kiss

ImageDespite being short, Etienne St. Clair not only has amazing hair and slightly crooked-cute bottom teeth, but also is a perfect combination of French maturity and American goofiness - with a British accent! Does it get any better? Anna doesn't think so. But it could get worse. St. Clair (as everyone calls him) is taken.

Anna and the French Kiss, a recent Rosie Award nominee, begins with Anna's move for her senior year in high school from Atlanta to Paris. Anna's dad thinks it would be a good experience for her to attend the School for Americans in Paris and pulls some strings to get her into this exclusive school. It is tricky at first, because the school is small and Anna is the only new student (aaaand doesn't speak any French). Despite feeling homesick for her best friend, a new romance from her old job at the movie theater, and her little brother all back in Atlanta, Anna makes friends with her neighbor in the dormitory and starts hanging out with her and St. Clair's circle of friends. Read more »

The Oxford English Dictionary

Meaning of EverythingThe Oxford English Dictionary is the premier dictionary of the English language.  It is famous for its easy-to-understand definitions and word etymology, which strives to record the earliest known usage.  The seemingly simple verbs set, make and put vie with each other for the longest entries - over 60,000 words each to describe all of the uses and senses!

The current editor of the OED, as it is commonly known, is set to retire later this year.  John Simpson was briefly interviewed on Morning Edition on NPR yesterday.  What makes his position newsworthy is that he is only the seventh editor of the dictionary since the project's beginning in 1879 and has been working in this high profile position of the world's most famous dictionary for more than 35 years.   

In addition to some specialized copies of the Oxford dictionaries for foreign languages and picture dictionaries, MCPL owns a compact version of the Oxford English Dictionary.  The print is so tiny, you need a zoom text reading machine (which MCPL also owns!) to really read any parts of this mammoth book. Read more »

Shakespeare's Birthday and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Will in the WorldToday is Shakespeare's birthday and to celebrate a Goodreads contributer created a great infographic to help you select your next read.  A comedy?  A tragedy?  MCPL has works by Shakespeare, books to help you get through the plays and of course biographies.  One of the best biographies is Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World.  Shakespeare expert and Harvard historian, Greenblatt does an excellent job of integrating a basic biography with the sights, sounds and feel of Elizabethan England.  This book is dense with detail, but also entirely readable is a great choice for both self professed Shakespeare know-it-alls and newcomers alike.

Seeing as it is a classics sort of day, I thought I would also link to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  This fictional video blog chronicles the modern day Lizzie Bennet, her sisters Lydia and Jane, and her best friend Charlotte Wu as they navigate between the pressure of their parents and potential boyfriends including the new-to-the-neighborhood Bing Lee. Read more »

2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Orphan Master's SonThe Pulitzer Prize is an annual awards given to excellence in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition and are administered by Columbia University in New York City.  The 2013 awards were announced yesterday.  For books, the following awards were given.

Fiction - The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Ambitious and inventive, this novel is set in an orphanage in North Korea.  Protagonist Pak Jun Do is forced to become a fighting tunnel expert and a kidnapper before he takes his fate into his own hands. Johnson is able to tell the tale of touching humanity set within the backdrop of a brutal regime. Read more »

Roger Ebert: Film Critic and Writer

Life ItselfRoger Ebert, film critic extraordinaire and Pulitzer Prize winner, died last week after a battle with cancer.  Immediately following his death, there were lots of quotes circulating online from Ebert which reminded me what a great writer he was.  In writing about movies, Ebert was able often able to put his finger on the pulse of real life human behavior and articulate the human condition - both the happy and the sad.  I forgot how funny he was, and his reviews are a joy to read even if you disagree on the rating.

Those interested in starting with the basics, check out his Movie Yearbooks - complete with movie reviews, essays, tributes, journal entries, and new additions to his popular Movie Glossary.  If you are looking for critiques that might lead you to viewing of really good movies, try The Great Movie series. However, some of Ebert's best writing was in critiquing bad movies.  If you aren't looking for movie suggestions, but just some hilarious examples of his writing check out Your Movie SucksRead more »

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